Cancer Rates at Manchester Elementary, the State’s Report

I just submitted a story on concerns among Manchester Elementary School staff about the seemingly high number of cancer cases, past and present, among students at the school. The story will run tomorrow.

At least a dozen current or former Manchester students have had cancer of various types. The school even has a memorial garden for students who have died of cancer and other causes. About 30 adults in the area also are known have had cancer. The prevalence of the disease in various forms raised a red flag among school staff, enough so that teacher Ann Giantvalley decided to investigate.

Giantvalley, a Manchester resident, represents the school on Kitsap County’s Manchester Citizens Advisory Committee. She shared her concerns with the county’s board of commissioners and eventually with the state Department of Health. DOH epidemiologists, using confidential information in the Washington State Cancer Registry data bank, conducted an in depth analysis of known cases within school district boundaries, and on July 2 they reported back to Giantvalley with their findings.

According to the report, brain tumors among children in the age group from birth to 19 years occur at four times the rate expected among the general population. Two of the 4 cases were diagnosed within the past two years. State and local health officials have concluded, however, that — sad though the individual cases may be — the statistical anomaly is not cause for alarm or an investigation of possible environmental causes. Little is known about the cause of brain cancers. Researchers are looking at genetics, lifestyle and the environment. Radiation has been identified as a possible cause.

The Kitsap County Health District responds to 3 or 4 reports of possible “cancer clusters” each year, according to health district director Scott Lindquist. His office welcomes such reports, and Lindquist said he’s glad there’s a comprehensive process in place for addressing such concerns and identifying possible environmental factors triggering illness in population groups in Kitsap County. With state budget cuts, he said, those services are in danger of being cut.

I’ll explain more in my story about why the state’s report hasn’t triggered an all out investigation of the Manchester environment. Below is the report, which was sent to Giantvalley on July 2.

Cancer Report

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