The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) examined data from the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry and shared a summary of that analysis earlier today with four local health department directors. We are now sharing this summary more broadly, but we remind the public that the data in the registry do not identify the causes of cancer. Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn as to whether GenX or any other specific exposures contributed to cancer rates we examined.
DHHS provided the summary to answer questions raised about cancer during the ongoing investigation of GenX in the Cape Fear River. The analysis revealed that cancer rates in the four counties were generally similar to the statewide rates of pancreatic, liver, uterine, testicular and kidney cancers. There were two exceptions where the county cancer incidence rates were higher than the state and four where the incidence rates were lower.
DHHS Deputy Secretary for Health Services Mark Benton explained that the results do not point to any consistent trends in counties that get their water from the lower Cape Fear.
“Overall the results are what we would expect to see looking at multiple types of cancer in multiple counties, with some rates below and above the state rate,” said Benton. “Many factors could influence these cancer incidence rates, including prevalence of tobacco and alcohol use, diet and lifestyle choices, and many other possible exposures – none of which are addressed in the cancer registry.”
DHHS looked at the incidence of five specific cancers in Bladen, Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender Counties and compared them with statewide cancer rates from 1996 to 2015. The rates of pancreatic, liver, uterine, testicular and kidney cancers were chosen for analysis because they have been associated with GenX or other perfluorinated compounds in laboratory animal studies. The incidence rates were compared to the state rates for the entire 20-year period and separately for each five-year interval therein (1996–2000, 2001–2005, 2006–2010 and 2011–2015).
The results show that county rates for these cancers were similar to state rates, with the following exceptions:
- New Hanover County had a higher 20-year rate of testicular cancer during 1996–2015 and a higher five-year rate of liver cancers during 2006–2010 compared with the state. NOTE: Rates of both cancers in New Hanover County were similar to the state rates during the most recent period (2011-2015).
- Brunswick County had a lower 20-year rate of pancreatic cancer during 1996–2015; a lower five-year rate of uterine cancer during 2006–2010; and a lower five-year rate of pancreatic cancer during 2011–2015 compared with the state.
- Bladen County had a lower 20-year rate of kidney cancer during 1996–2015 compared with the state.
The Central Cancer Registry collects, processes and analyzes data on all cancer cases diagnosed among North Carolina residents to inform the planning and evaluation of cancer control efforts. The Registry does not include information about causes of cancer or associations with specific exposures. Although the information in the summary describes cancer rates in these counties over time, only a comprehensive research study can provide information about whether a specific exposure is associated with increased rates of cancer.