State Health Department: Niagara County Cancer Study Released

Final Report on Cancer Incidence Near the Former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works & Niagara Falls Storage Site

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 16, 2008) - The State Health Department today released a final report on cancer incidence near the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works (LOOW) and Niagara Falls Storage Site (NFSS) in the towns of Lewiston and Porter.

The former Ordnance Works site manufactured TNT during World War II and has been the focus of health concerns by citizens due to chemical contaminants used in that process. In addition, the NFSS has caused public concern over radioactive materials stored at the facility.

Based on community input, three study areas were identified: the Lewiston-Porter Central School District (No. 1), the entire former LOOW site (No. 2), and areas downstream and downwind of the former LOOW (No. 3). The study evaluated cancer incidence among people of all ages in each study area who were diagnosed with cancer from 1991-2000.

The Department of Health sought to investigate whether the number of cancers arising among people residing in any of the three study areas was higher than expected. The number of cancers actually diagnosed among all residents in each of the study areas was compared with the number of cancers one would expect to find, if cancer rates in the study areas were the same as in the state as a whole (exclusive of New York City). Due to the proximity of the school campus to the LOOW and NFSS sites, childhood cancers were also examined separately for each study area.

Summary of Findings:

  • Researchers found no unusual cancer patterns in study areas Nos. 2 and 3, where people would have been most likely to have been exposed to any contaminants that might have been in the soil or might have been carried away in surface water or in the air. The only exception was a high number of prostate cancers in study area No. 2. A high number of prostate cancers was also found in study area No. 1. The high numbers of prostate cancers in these areas may be related to medical care practices such as prostate screening.
  • The investigation found statistically high numbers of several other cancers in study area No. 1. This study area was selected due to concerns over children attending schools on the Lewiston-Porter campus. The greater-than-expected numbers of women with breast and bladder cancers are not likely to be due to exposures received while the women were attending schools on the campus, because most of the excesses were in older women who went to school before the campus was built .
  • There was an excess in cancers in children living in study area No. 1 and in children ages 10-14 living in this area. These children could have attended schools on the Lewiston-Porter campus, although interviews showed that not all of them had. The Department of Health also found unusual numbers of testicular cancers in young men, and gonadal and germ cell tumors in children. However, conclusions cannot be drawn about these higher numbers and a relationship to exposures to any contaminants from the sites because there is insufficient information about where these individuals went to school or other possible risk factors they may have had.
  • More recent data show that after 2000, the unusual numbers of childhood cancers in general, and childhood gonadal and germ cell tumors in particular did not continue.
  • The possibility that the occurrence of the cancers was the result of chance can not be ruled out.

Next Steps:

A public meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at the auditorium of the Lewiston-Porter High School. Experts from the State Department of Health will provide an overview and answer questions about the Lewiston-Porter cancer incidence investigation.

Environmental investigations related to past federal activities at the former LOOW are the responsibility of several federal agencies. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting environmental investigations on behalf of the federal departments of Defense and Energy.

For more information on cancer or to obtain a copy of the final study, visit: http://www.nyhealth.gov/nysdoh/cancer/center/cancerhome.htm