Health Department Study Finds No Cancer Cluster In Northwest Miami
"We have not found or identified a cluster," says Lillian Rivera, the Health Department's administrator. "Based on the incidence and methodology of our study, this community is not identified as a cluster."
That's not good enough for some residents, though, who say the study didn't take into account more recent cases they feel are linked to a recently shuttered recycling plant.
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The results, delivered in a press conference Monday morning, conclude a nearly two-month investigation in the neighborhood, according to Rivera. She added that environmental exposure likely had no connection to the cancer cases, and that the department had no plans to conduct another study.
But Vanessa Shelton, a longtime resident of Broadmoor, doesn't want the county giving up so soon.
"I'm very surprised and disappointed," she tells Riptide. "This is not over. We're not giving up."
According to Dr. Youjie Huang of the Florida Department of Health's Bureau of Epidemiology, the investigation found 634 patients with 693 cases of cancer and 379 deaths between 2000 and 2010 in the neighborhood. Those cases were compiled through the Florida Cancer Data System (FCDS), a state-wide cancer registry. The investigation then compared the rate of incidence and death from cancer in the neighborhood to the state average.
"Compared to the rates of overall Florida cancer cases, the rates of breast cancer, Hodgkin disease nodal, lung and bronchus cancer, kidney and renal pelvis cancer and melanoma were statistically lower than the state average," the report states.
The only type of cancer found to be occurring at a higher rate was stomach cancer, but Dr. Huang cautioned that probably had more to do with the neighborhood's racial makeup than anything else. He noted that stomach cancer was very common in Hispanic populations, and that the Broadmoor neighborhood was majority Hispanic.
The study did not, however, investigate cases that had occurred in 2011 or 2012, noting that FCDS only had data until 2010 at the neighborhood level and 2009 at the state level.
Shelton had alleged that nine people in Broadmoor had died from cancer in the last year. The New Times' investigation found five cancer deaths in the neighborhood that occurred in 2011 or 2012.
The cancer cluster concern first came up in a July zoning board meeting of the Miami-Dade County Commission, when Broadmoor residents made their fears public. Based on what they heard, Commissioners Jean Monestime and Barbara Jordan co-sponsored a resolution to get the county health department to investigate the issue. Monestime, who received the study's findings on October 19, issued a written statement on the results, saying that he found the higher rate of stomach cancer "troubling" and that it "bears further investigation."
The health department added that allegations concerning local industrial facilities, including King Metal Recycling Plant, being tied to the cancers "did not enter our studies," according to Rivera. As of Monday, King Metal remains closed.
The issue of respiratory problems and asthma was not studied by the health department, and Rivera says that, as of this time, there are no plans to investigate that.
Monestime, who is currently out of the country on a trade development mission to Haiti, wants the county to "look into these concerns," adding, "The health and safety of the residents in my district is my top priority."
When asked whether the health department would look further into the cancer issue, Rivera emphatically stated that the investigation was over.
"I think this is it for us," she says. "This is where it stops. We have all we need."
That's not good enough for Shelton, who says that she and the Broadmoor residents want more answers.
"Justice will prevail," she says. "Whatever has been done will come forth."
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