Health & Wellness

PA Health Department: No Cancer Cluster in One Community

Residents wanted a review after what looked like a higher than normal number of cases


When four young athletes who graduated from the same high school were all diagnosed with the same rare cancer, people in the community were understandably concerned.

But a review by the Pennsylvania Department of Health shows there is no "cancer cluster" of Ewing's sarcoma and Ewing family of tumors in Washington County, south of Pittsburgh, or in the Canon-McMillan School District specifically. The Washington Observer Reporter says the DOH concluded rates of these cancers in those areas is higher than it has been in the past, but is actually lower than statewide rates.

Public concern over what appeared to be a rash of cancer cases prompted a review.

The review was initiated by the DOH in March because of residents' ongoing concerns about a number of Ewing's sarcoma cases in the same area. In the past 10 years, twelve people with ties in the Canon-Mac school district have been diagnosed with the rare cancer. Currently, two young men, Mitchell Barton and David Cobb who live in the school district are undergoing treatment for Ewing's. Luke Blanock, a classmate and baseball teammate of Barton's, died of Ewing's in 2016 at age 19, and Canon-Mac graduate Kyle Deliere, a standout athlete and student, died in 2013 at the age of 27.

The Tribune Review reports that a study released earlier this year reached the same conclusion. It also reviewed the incidence of other childhood cancers and radiation-related cancers because the area once had a uranium processing facility and still has a disposal area under federal oversight. It found no elevated rates.

Even though both studies conclude no higher than expected incidence of Ewing's sarcoma, the state Department of Health plans to keep monitoring.

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