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Cancer Rate Study Raises Questions

A study of cancer rates in Eastern Washington raises more questions than it answers and a doctor warned it is too early to draw conclusions.

The recently published Eastern Washington State Cancer Registry report for 1993 appears to show a higher incidence of cancer rates in counties east of the Hanford nuclear reservation than in adjacent counties to the west.

It also indicates cancer rates for men in the region may be higher than the national rates for men, but are lower for women.

The registry, which includes counties in southeastern Washington, drew no conclusions because it is the first report of a year’s data.

“It’s a very preliminary, very superficial study,” said Dr. Keith Harcourt, medical director of the Blue Mountain Oncology Program. The center released the first year’s data “just to show people the statistics are being collected.”

But the registry did note a few possible trends.

It did not attempt to explain why some downwind counties to the east of Hanford appeared to have higher cancer rates than those just to the west.

That apparent difference “will definitely be evaluated,” said Cleveland Sigh, registry director.

Smoking, for instance, could play more of a role in the rates than location, he said.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle is studying whether thyroid cancer in the area is linked to airborne radiation.

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