KUSA - Colorado's Department of Public Health and Environment released its latest findings regarding a connection between living next to Rocky Flats and cancer rates.
Researchers studied cancer rates among people living in 10 communities surrounding Rocky Flats. The findings are not unusual compared to the rest of the Denver Metro area, according to Chief Environmental Epidemiologist Mike Van Dyke.
This is the second study performed by CDPHE, the first concluded in 1998.
"We've seen pretty consistent evidence that there doesn't appear to be an increased risk of cancer in the commuities around Rocky Flats," Van Dyke said.
The study did note "elevated" cancer levels with 4 types of cancers in certain communities: lung, colorectal, esophagus and prostate cancers.
Van Dyke believes smoking is the likely reason behind the main spike, not radiation poisoning.
"High percentages of these cases did smoke," Van Dyke said, "it really suggests that it's from smoking."
The findings strongly disagree with a survey conducted by Metropolitan State University in 2016.
The survey was launched online in May and drew more than 1,700 responses over seven months.
The results corroborated the long time speculation about the potential health effects of living near the nuclear production facility, according to Carol Jensen, the principle investigator for the survey and a professor of integrative health care at MSU.
"I see some concerning patterns in the data," Jensen said. "Thyroid cancer, for example, is the second most common disease in our research and has been linked to ionizing radiation in the past. The rest of the state and nationwide, thyroid is the ninth most common cancer."
More than 40 percent of the reported cancers are classified as "rare," according to Jensen.
The health department says its getting numbers from the Cancer Registry Study. According to Van Dyke, without a comparison population, figuing out the health impact Rocky Flats is extremely difficult.
"In most of the Rocky Flats studies that have been published, we've seen pretty consistent evidence that there doesn't appear to be an increased risk of cancer in the commuities around Rocky Flats."
Rocky Flats Downwinders co-founder Nick Hansen disagrees and says the study should have been handled differently.
"I was disappointed by the study because it seems like another attempt to pacify the public with meaningless data," Hansen said, "they look at people living out there now regardless of how long they've potentially been living out there."
He said the Downwinders want to study the impact to the people and families who lived near Rocky Flats during or after production. CDPHE's study only accounted for overall current cancer rates in 10 communities. Hansen said that can not properly guage cancer levels.
Van Dyke admits the study is extremely difficult but keeping track of people who worked and lived near the plant is becoming even harder over time.
Hansen said he's not asking for the state to track down every former resident. He believes there's still a way to perform a controlled study.
"Pick up the phone, write the letters to find out what has happened to these people," Hansen said.
Moving forward, the health department says it will specifically look into the effects of thyroid cancer. which has been linked to ionizing radiation. M-S-U's survey is also ongoing.
MSU's study: http://rockyflatsdownwinders.com/health-survey/
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