State health officials have opened an investigation into claims that the city of Carlsbad has had an unusually high number of cancer cases.
Residents who have been directly affected by cancer, recently started counting the number of people who have been diagnosed with cancer in their neighborhood.
A former principal at Kelly Elementary School, Carol Herrera said she noticed a spike in cancer cases more than 20 years ago. From 1986 to 2001, Herrera said an estimated 30 people she knew were diagnosed with different types of cancer. More than a dozen of them were students.
"It is absolutely something that needs to be thoroughly investigated," Herrera said.
John Quartarone, whose 16-year old son Chase died of lymphoma last December found more than 185 cases within a three-mile radius of his home near Carlsbad High School. The Carlsbad HS student who loved to play sports, died on Dec. 14 from a cancer that attacked his lungs. His parents, who say three other boys in the same neighborhood were just diagnosed with lymphoma, blame the nearby power plant.
David Lloyd represented NRG West, the company that owns the 95-acre Encina power plant, at a December community forum. “There are many reasons why people get cancer,” Lloyd said. “I don’t believe it's the power plant and I live up the hill from here too.”
Quartarone worked for a month to get the state's attention and over the weekend he received a letter from the Cancer Registry, the organization which investigates cancer clusters in California.
"In California generally, for every thousand persons in the population, about five are diagnosed with cancer in the average year, although this changes somewhat depending on the local race and level of education," Thomas Mack wrote. "Based on the size of Carlsbad's population, the growth rate in the population over the past decade, and the race and educational status, we would expect about 5000 cases of cancer to have occurred in Carlsbad over the past decade, of which approximately 200 cases would have occurred in young people."
Mack also said cancer is a reportable disease in California, meaning physicians and hospitals report each diagnosed case.
He, along with help from Carlsbad residents will try to determine how many cancer cases have occurred in Carlsbad within a certain time period.
"About a third of us are destined to get one cancer or another in our lifetime, and the important question is whether there is an excess at any particular time and in any particular place," Mack wrote.
On Wednesday, April 28, state and county health officials will hold a community forum about the issue in Carlsbad. Open to the public, the meeting will begin at 7 p.m. inside the gym at Calavera Hills Middle School.