Officials investigating spike in cancers on Long Island 

New York health officials are investigating a spike in cancer incidence in three Long Island counties.

The State Department of Health found statistically significant rates of leukemia, bladder, lung and thyroid cancers in Centereach, Farmingville and Selden in just four years.

Using data from the New York State Cancer Registry, which tracks cancer prevalence in the state, an average of 18,000 cases of cancer per year were found on Long Island between 2011 and 2015.

That means cases on Long Island made up more than 16 percent of all the cases diagnosed in New York each year.

The New York State Department of Health found statistically significant rates of leukemia, bladder, lung and thyroid cancers in three Long Island counties -Centereach, Farmingville and Selden – in just four years

Dr Yusuf Hannun, director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center, a division of Stony Brook Hospital, met with state officials on Tuesday to discuss the preliminary findings.

He told Daily Mail Online that there’s no need for residents to be alarmed yet because more questions still need answering.

‘The data shows an increased incidence in small segments of Long Island but one needs to be careful about how we interpret this data,’ he said.

‘For example, what subtypes of cancer are we talking about here? For leukemia there could be a dozen different subtypes. If it’s an across-the-board increase, that would be unexpected and difficult to interpret.’

He said the same is true for lung cancer, explaining that different types of lung cancer are often seen in smokers versus non-smokers.

Dr Hannun adds that there is such a thing as overdiagnosis, or detecting cancer that will not cause symptoms or death. 

This occurred in South Korea, where there was a mass campaign beginning in 1999 for residents to receive thyroid cancer screenings.

It means the rate of thyroid cancer diagnoses was 15 times higher in 2011 than it was in 1993 – although the mortality rates didn’t change. 

It turned out the cancers that were being detected weren’t forming malignant tumors.

‘If one starts looking for certain things, one finds them more,’ Dr Hannun said.

‘It doesn’t mean more people are going to die from these cancers. I’m not saying they aren’t, but you have to look at the mortality rates to see if deaths from these cancers are rising.’ 

Dr Hannun praised the work of the study, saying so far it’s a ‘good start’.

‘We’re lucky that New York has this rigorous registry process in which every cancer is documented,’ he said.

‘In terms of identifying occupational or environmental exposures, that is at its beginning phase. 

‘I’m hoping this will end up in providing more resources both to Stony Brook and other places to identify and mitigate risk factors for different types of cancer.’   

State epidemiologists also found that Staten Island had increased rates of bladder cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and thyroid cancer.

The Staten Island Advance reported that the borough contained 7.16 percent of all cancer incidences in New York City but only 5.5 percent of the population. 

Warren County was found to have the highest incidence rate for all cancers statewide while six kinds of cancer with elevated incidence were seen in East Buffalo and Western Cheektowaga, according to the AP.

Cancer specialists in Suffolk County as well as officials from the Suffolk County Department of Health will be holding a public meeting to discuss the preliminary findings on July 17. 

Meetings are also being planned in the other areas with elevated rates of cancer.

The estimated new cases of leukemia, bladder, lung and thyroid cancers diagnosed in the US each year, according to the National Cancer Institute, is as follows:

  • Bladder cancer: 81,190
  • Leukemia: 60,300
  • Lung cancer: 234,030
  • Thyroid cancer: 53,990 

Bladder cancer begins most often in the cells that line the inside of the bladder, although it can occur in the urinary tract drainage system.

Approximately seven out of 10 bladder cancer cases are diagnosed in an early stage, when the cancer is highly treatable. 

Leukemia is a cancer of blood-forming tissues, most often the white blood cells, which prevent the body from being able to fight infection. 

Because so many types of leukemia exists, some forms are more common in children and others in adults.

Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death both in the US and worldwide. 

Doctors often do not find the disease until it is in a late stage, meaning that the five-year-survival rate in advanced lung cancer is only four percent.

Thyroid cancer is found in the cells of the thyroid, which is a gland located at the base of the neck. Many thyroid cancers do not produce harmful tumors and are easily treatable.