People living near Savannah River Site don't get cancer more often than residents in other parts of the country, researchers said Thursday.
The Medical University of South Carolina presented the first results of a six-year study of cancer rates in 22 counties on both sides of the Savannah River. Preliminary results were released last spring.
Researchers confirmed, however, that cervical cancer among black women and cancer of the esophagus in black men are higher than the national average. Those cancers are not generally believed to be caused by the type of radioactive spills SRS has released into the environment through its nuclear operations.
The study covers newly reported cases of cancer in people living in rural areas as well as in Augusta, Aiken and Savannah. It is funded by the Department of Energy and conducted by MUSC in conjunction with Emory University in Atlanta.
Overall, "the incidence rates found in the region were expected," said Daniel Lackland, an epidemiology professor at MUSC. "What we can say is the rates are not high."
Poverty, lack of access to health care, lack of public education about preventive tests to detect early cancers could all contribute to high rates of cervical and esophageal cancer, researchers say.
About 4,000 new cases of cancer were found in the region between 1991 and 1993. The Savannah River valley had a leukemia rate below the national average and an average rate of thyroid cancer - both forms that can be associated to radiation exposure.
Associated Press reports were used in this story.