U.S. Water News Online
AUGUSTA -- Maine is taking part in a four-year study funded
by the National Cancer Institute that will try to determine why the
Northeast has a high mortality rate from bladder cancer. From 1994 to
1998, Delaware had the highest mortality rate from the disease, at
4.5 deaths per 100,000 population. Maine was second at 4.3 per
100,000, followed by New Hampshire at 4.1 per 100,000.
Hawaii had the lowest rate among the 50 states, with 1.7 deaths
The study is being made in conjunction with state health
departments, including Maine's, Dartmouth Medical School, and a
private research corporation, Westat of Rockville, Md., study
"Maine residents are dying from bladder cancer at a rate that is
much higher than in the rest of the country. This four-year study
will help to identify the reasons for this unacceptable disparity,"
the Maine Department of Human Services' Bureau of Health wrote in its
budget request to hire a new employee to help with the study.
Researchers don't want to detail suspected causes of the cancer
because they want to avoid influencing people who will be questioned
as part of the study, said Betsy Duane of the National Cancer
Institute's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics in Bethesda,
"If people get too informed when they go to answer our
questionnaire, they might not be answering truthfully because they
want to help . . . so we leave things purposefully vague so we don't
bias things," Duane said.
The National Cancer Institute has suggested that environmental
factors in northern New England, such as smoking, water quality, diet
and occupational exposures, may play a part in the elevated rates of
"One of the things we're looking at is groundwater, and that
certainly would be environmental," Duane said. "But nobody's assuming
Areas with high incidents of different cancers can sometimes lead
researchers to their causes, said Dr. Margaret Parsons, director of
the Maine Cancer Registry.
"The National Cancer Institute, for a number of years, has been
plotting cancer trends geographically to try and see if geography can
give us some clues."
Dr. Dora Anne Mills, director of the Maine Bureau of Health, said
that high levels of arsenic known to be in Maine well water is a
prime suspect in the bladder cancer study.
"Exposure to arsenic has been shown to be related to bladder
cancer in other parts of the world, and we want to see if that is
true here as well," she said.
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