State’s review of cancer rates in northern Kent County finds few differences with statewide averages

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services along with the Kent County Health Department on Tuesday released a review of health data that, with the exception of prostate cancer,  found no consistent elevation in cancer rates for the selected areas of northern Kent County.

However, the MDHHS report made it clear that any potential link between PFAS and prostate cancer is “weak and there are other factors known to influence prostate [cancer] incidence that are beyond the scope of this review to address.”  These include differences in genetics, environmental exposures, PSA screening rates and socioeconomic status.

Michigan’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eden Wells said, MDHHS is “not convinced” that the elevated incidence for prostate cancer is fully explained by PFAS, and MDHHS could not “make that linkage” between prostate cancer and PFAS.

Kent County Health Officer Adam London concluded the meeting saying  he was relieved by the results.

“I’ve been very concerned. I think a lot of people in our community have been very concerned and had a fear that we were going to see, when we looked at the data, that we were going to see some extraordinary difference in the rate of cancer in this area. I’m encouraged and I’m thankful that overall, we’re not seeing that,” London said.

The lack of definitive and elevated results presented by health officials underscores how complicated issues related to PFAS continue to be.  As MDHHS notes, the ability to draw any more specific conclusions is constrained by the limitations of the study.  These include:

  • The study cannot determine the linkage of any cancer occurrence with environmental conditions including PFAS exposure nor the cause of observed increases or decreases of any cancer types over time.
  • The areas analyzed as part of the study do not exactly match the MDEQ Study Areas.
  • The study cannot determine which individuals (with or without cancer) residing with the evaluated geographic area have been exposed to PFAS.

The MDHHS report released today is the first step in an ongoing and long-term scientific analysis of the potential health impacts of PFAS exposure in our community.  Wolverine Worldwide continues to work diligently with all local, state and federal regulators to collect the right data and develop long-term solutions for our community.

You can read the state’s full report here: https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/MIDHHS/2018/08/14/file_attachments/1054874/2018-08-14%2BKent%2BCounty%2BCancer%2BIncidence%2BReport%2BFINAL.pdf

A replay of the joint press conference hosted by the Kent County Health Department and the state can be found here: https://livestream.com/wood/special-events/videos/178928776