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State Health Commissioner Says Henry Co. Brain Cancer Cluster Likely Due To Chance

Department of Neuroscience
Washington University School of Medicine

More than two dozen residents of Henry County have been diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer since 1999 and they want to know why. However, a state health department investigation may find that the cases aren’t linked by anything but chance.

As a cancer, glioblastoma is rare.  Which makes it strange that since 1999, 26 people have been diagnosed with the highly malignant brain tumors in Henry County.

But on Wednesday night, State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams told local families that national researchers say the cancer has no known environmental cause, except for high dose radiation common in cancer treatments.  The number of cases in Henry County are, he says, unfortunately, likely by chance.

“The analogy we like to use is when you’re shooting pool," he says. "And when you break, it’s going to be a random distribution every time.  But, anyone who plays pool knows there’s going to be times when there’s three balls or four balls or five balls bunched up together, and that doesn’t mean it’s not random.  It just means that that’s what happened.”

New Castle Mayor Greg York insisted that state health officials test local well water.  And the tests showed only one thing – that Henry County has some of the cleanest water in the state.  And Adams says, as a location, Henry County has one of the lowest rates of cancer in all of Indiana. 

But state health officials say they aren’t yet done talking to people in the area who have glioblastoma … and looking for other former residents who have been diagnosed since moving away.

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