More than 100 New Jersey high school graduates have been diagnosed with brain tumors over the past 30 years, raising concerns that there may be a link between school and the tumor cases.
Now investigation is underway to determine if the school — Colonia High School in Woodbridge, New Jersey — is affiliated with a Cancer clusters. But how will officials find out if a real cancer cluster exists or if the cases are just a fluke?
Colonia graduate Al Lupiano, an environmental scientist, was the first to sound the alarm about the potential cluster. In 1999, at the age of 27, he was diagnosed with a large, benign tumor Brain Tumor called an acoustic neuroma. His condition was rare, but he was successfully treated. But in 2021, his wife and sister, also Colonia graduates, were both diagnosed with rare brain tumors, sources say NJ Spotlight News. His wife was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma and his sister with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor. Then Lupiano started looking for the connection.
First, he found 15 people who attended high school who were diagnosed with primary brain cancer, which is a tumor that originates in the brain NBC today. And in March 2022, a few weeks after his sister’s death from her malignant tumor, Lupiano posted his findings on Facebook in search of more patients. Since the first post, Lupiano has published a list of 115 people who have visited or worked at Colonia and who have been diagnosed with primary brain cancer, according to news reports.
According to NJ Spotlight News, the City of Woodbridge has hired experts to conduct radiation tests inside school buildings and on campus. (Exposure to certain types of radiation may increase the risk of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.) If no connection is found specifically with the high school, Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said, according to NBC Today, other potential connection points in the community are being explored.
“It needs to be studied, no questions need to be asked,” said Elizabeth A. Platz, professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. But just because there’s an investigation doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a cancer cluster, Platz told Live Science.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “Cancer cases can accumulate even if there is no connection between them.” A 2012 study in the journal Critical reviews in toxicology shows how difficult it can be to confirm a cancer cluster. The review article looked at 567 tumor cluster studies over 20 years. Only in 72 of the suspected cancer clusters was an increased cancer incidence within the cluster confirmed. Only three of these clusters were associated with possible exposure and only one had a clear cause.
It may be that someone once diagnosed with cancer may be more likely to acknowledge other cancer diagnoses or engage in conversations about cancer and recognize their connections to other cancer patients, Platz said. It may seem related when in fact cancer is quite common and people just notice that fact.
To confirm a true cancer cluster, epidemiologists must determine that there are more cancer cases at any given time than would be expected in a given population based on their specific characteristics, such as age, sex and geography, Platz said. In other words, they have to prove through statistical analysis that more Colonia employees and graduates developed brain tumors in the same period than people with the same characteristics (age, sex, place of residence). It takes time to figure that out, Platz said.
The research will consider very granular data about graduates, such as their occupations, family history and other activities that could affect their exposure. Remarkably, brain cancer is rarer than other cancers. And we don’t have the same key risk factors for brain tumors that we have for common cancers, Platz said. (For example, smoking increases a person’s risk of lung cancer.)
Public health experts will examine the rate of brain tumor cases and examine possible causes. Without analyzing the data herself, Platz said, she couldn’t estimate how many of the 15,000 people who graduated from Colonia High over the past 30 years would need to have cancer to qualify as a cluster. In the United States, the rate of new cases of brain tumors or other nervous system Cancer is 6.3 cases per 100,000 people per year, according to the National Health Institute.
Platz expects public health officials will look for certain overlaps in terms of timing and tumor type. “If there is a unique exposure, we would expect a unique type of cancer,” Platz said. Instead of looking at all central nervous system cancers over a 30-year period, investigators will likely look at the rates of specific types of brain tumors and how long those tumors took to develop after high school, she said.
Because cancer clusters are often suspected in very small subpopulations — such as neighborhoods, apartment buildings, or houses on the same side of the street — they can be very difficult to pinpoint, Platz said. The number of people is so small that we don’t know how many cancers you would face, she said. Unlike laboratory experiments, which can be tightly controlled, epidemiological and public health studies are often observational; As such, responses may be incomplete or unsatisfactory, Platz said.
Corresponding NJ Spotlight News, McCormac has been contacted by at least five agencies, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Jersey Department of Health. Everyone is awaiting the results of the school’s radiation tests before deciding how to participate and proceed with the investigation.
Originally published on Live Science.
Over 100 brain tumors linked to NJ high school: Is it a cancer cluster? Source link Over 100 brain tumors linked to NJ high school: Is it a cancer cluster?