State Health Department Releases Final Results of Breast Cancer Investigation in Suffolk County

ALBANY, NY, June 23, 2006 - The State Health Department today announced that its intensive, multi-year follow-up breast cancer investigation in the communities of Coram, Mt. Sinai and Port Jefferson Station found no local environmental factors that were likely related to the elevated breast cancer rates among women living in this seven-zip code region on Long Island. The results of the investigation found nothing unusual.

A key goal of the Coram, Mt. Sinai and Port Jefferson Station Breast Cancer Follow-up Investigation, well known as the CMP investigation, was to try to identify unusual environmental factors that may help to explain locally elevated breast cancer rates observed between 1993 and 1997. Several teams of state health researchers examined a large amount of existing information about environmental contaminants and other factors in seven ZIP Codes in Suffolk County including, Coram, Mt. Sinai, Port Jefferson Station, Miller Place, Port Jefferson, Sound Beach and East Setauket.

The final report recommends ongoing surveillance for this area, consistent with other statewide activities. These activities include periodically updating ZIP-Code level cancer data for breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancers, identifying and assessing potential environmental exposures and providing public health education about cancer and other health conditions and environmental exposures.

The detailed findings have been mailed to the more than 700 individuals who attended public meetings over the course of the investigation. The information is also posted on the Department's web site at www.health.ny.gov. Residents who have questions about the CMP investigative report may contact the State Health Department at: 1-800-458-1158 (choose option '3' - for 'Cancer Mapping').

"We hope that our findings will ease concern among residents in Suffolk County about breast cancer and the local environment," said State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H. "This investigation represented the largest and most thorough examination of environmental risk factors that may be related to cancer in a particular geographic area."

The CMP investigation was a broad-based examination of many factors and included community input. Researchers met with community residents to learn about possible environmental exposures and then obtained data from state and local agencies related to each community concern.

Four evaluations were conducted as part of the investigation, including:

  • The Epidemiological Evaluation examined the pattern of breast cancer diagnosis, the ages of women and the stage of their disease when diagnosed. It also examined how the number of increasing breast cancer cases might be related to known risk factors. To do this it used data about race, income and educational level, which are commonly used as surrogates for known risk factors (such as childbearing history). The results showed that the higher than expected breast cancer rate in the area did not stand out as significantly different after these factors were considered.
  • The Toxicological Evaluation presented the system developed by state health researchers to classify risk factors for breast cancer. This classification system evaluated more than 165 substances for research and investigation purposes in New York State and was used for the first time during this investigation.
  • The Environmental Exposure Evaluation examined outdoor air quality, pesticide use, in-home radon, hazardous waste sites, industrial sites, public and private drinking water and electromagnetic fields, in addition to data from a number of state environmental quality databases, such as spills and waste water discharge permits, fishing advisories, etc. The results showed that the levels of contaminants and other possible environmental exposures in the area were similar to or lower than levels in the rest of New York State for the majority of those evaluated.
  • The Integration Evaluation made conclusions about 31 contaminants that were elevated in the area and possible health risks. The evaluation showed that none of these contaminants or their mixtures were likely to be related to the elevated breast cancer rate among women living in the region. It also showed that except for ozone, none of the contaminants was likely to be related to local non-cancer health effects.

One notable finding in the investigation was elevated levels of ozone. Ozone levels in the area, as well as the rest of Long Island, sometimes exceed the State's eight hour standard during the warmer weather months. On those days, the state health department recommends limiting strenuous physical activity outdoors to reduce health effects (such as nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing and decreases in lung function). The very young and those with pre-existing respiratory problems, such as asthma may be especially sensitive.

New York State has ongoing efforts to reduce ozone and notify residents so that they can adjust their activities on days when the ozone standards are exceeded. You can find out about air quality forecasts and alerts daily by visiting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's web site at http://www.dec.state.ny.us or by calling the New York State Air Quality Hotline: (800) 535-1345. During the warmer weather months, many television news stations and newspapers include air quality forecasts and alerts with local weather information.

For more information on the CMP investigation, please visit the New York State Health Department's web site at www.health.ny.gov.