REGISTER VIEWPOINT: We need a total approach to cancer cluster research

Talking about the latest public findings involving the Clyde "cancer cluster," Dr. Robert Indian said one thing that ought
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

Talking about the latest public findings involving the Clyde "cancer cluster," Dr. Robert Indian said one thing that ought to be of particular interest.

"I think we need to have the history detectives meet the medical detectives," the state health department's chief of comprehensive cancer control said.

He was talking about the possibility of something that contaminated the environment for a brief time before fading away being behind the baffling and heartbreaking "cluster" of cancer cases involving children in the Clyde area -- and, apparently, beyond.

Most people who've been thinking or worrying about the "cancer cluster" have a favorite suspect, a nearby chemical waste disposal facility or an orange cloud seen in the air over Vickery several years ago.

Meanwhile, an recent story from the Associated Press talked about the surprising speed with which contaminants can spread through groundwater -- in the case of the story, a plant near Gibsonburg, miles away.

The fact is, studying and fighting the possible environmental causes is much like what the fight against cancer has become: A treatment of the person, not simply hitting the disease with everything we've got, often doing more damage.

What we're learning about the environment is that we're still learning about the environment. We don't know what could be related to what else.

Think too far along that path and it sounds like conspiracy theorizing. Not far enough and we'll more than likely miss the answer -- or one of them.

Understanding what caused the cancers in Clyde's children will help us treat them. Along the way, though, understanding what might have caused them might help us stop doing things whose consequences down the road we won't comprehend until it's too late.