Title: An investigation of a reported cancer cluster in Randolph, Massachusetts.
Authors: Day, R; Ware, J H; Wartenberg, D; Zelen, M
Published In J Clin Epidemiol, (1989)
Abstract: An increasingly common public health problem is the perception that disease incidence has increased or a cluster of disease has occurred in a community. In most cases, the disease of concern is cancer and a local hazardous waste site or other environmental problem is involved. These problems can be difficult to investigate and public health officials are frequently criticized for their inability to address community concerns. This paper reports a case study of such a situation occurring in the Barlett-Green Acres (BGA) neighborhood of Randolph, Massachusetts. Study data were obtained by interviews in households of persons belonging to a list of alleged cancer cases initially supplied by residents and supplemented using records available in town and state public health offices. One objective of the investigation was to develop methods that may be of value in similar situations arising in other communities. From a list of names compiled prior to and during the investigation, 45 incident cases of cancer were identified and found suitable for analysis. An additional four cases were added from the Massachusetts Cancer Registry. The analysis showed the existence of a cancer cluster, but overall cancer incidence and mortality in the BGA neighborhood were not elevated. Residence history, disease site, and other features of the cancer cases were investigated using methods less sensitive to incomplete reporting than total incidence. No unusual features of the cancer data other than the initiating cluster were identified and no environmental hazard likely to impact the BGA neighborhood was discovered, hence we conclude that the most likely cause of the cancer cluster was random variation in cancer rates.
PubMed ID: 2918323
MeSH Terms: Adolescent; Adult; Age Factors; Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Environmental Exposure; Female; Humans; Lung Neoplasms/epidemiology; Male; Massachusetts; Middle Aged; Neoplasms/epidemiology*; Neoplasms/mortality; Registries; Sex Factors; Space-Time Clustering