CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The University of Iowa will investigate after twelve Hudson Schools teachers were diagnosed with breast cancer in less than a decade. The University will be able to assist in determining whether a school-related environmental factor contributed to the cancer cases.
Mary Charlton, Associate Professor at the University of Iowa Department of Epidemiology and Director & Principal Investigator of the Iowa Cancer Registry, stated, “I know a lot of people are concerned about this, and we’re just really delighted to follow through.”
Each year, the Iowa Cancer Registry investigates a number of cancer cluster cases in the state.
Since the mid-1990s, around 145 cancer cluster investigations have been conducted, stated Charlton.
When teachers in the Hudson School District expressed worry about the prevalence of breast cancer among staff, the University of Iowa was contacted in an effort to identify a possible environmental factor. However, doing so is incredibly challenging.
Typically, investigations focus on a specific geographical area, which is useful because the Iowa Cancer Registry keeps track of cases across the state and the residences of individuals afflicted at the time of their diagnosis.
This time, they will investigate a specific school.
“In our registry, we do not record who worked where and when. In that scenario, we’ll need a list of everyone who has worked there for the past many years so that we can fully comprehend,” Charlton added.
Superintendent Dr. Voss is on board with the necessity of district engagement, despite the fact that a reason has not yet been identified.
Dr. Voss stated, “It will be tough to discover answers; I do not know if there will be a correlation or a cause.”
Even when an environmental cause cannot be identified, the University asserts that its findings are nevertheless beneficial to the community.
“Even when we don’t uncover items in one environmental source, we can often learn about risk variables,” noted Charlton.
She mentions cigarette or smoking exposure, lack of physical exercise, obesity, nutritional variables, and alcohol exposure as common cancer risk factors. Environmental variables are infrequently demonstrated.
Charlton stated, “Sometimes it’s stuff in the water, sometimes it’s things in the air, sometimes it’s soil, etc.”
Investigations into cancer clusters normally take a few of months to conclude, while more complex cases may take longer.
Only one of the cancer cluster investigations conducted by the University of Iowa led to additional CDC inquiry. This instance occurred in Wellman in the 1990s, where there was a cluster of brain cancer cases. No environmental factor was ever identified.