State Health Department releases new Johnson County childhood cancer rates

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. (WTHR) - A new report shows childhood cancer rates in Johnson County slightly higher than State health officials expected.

But the Indiana Department of Health says the numbers aren't significant enough for alarm. It's all part of a follow up to our 13 Investigates series, "Desperate for Answers."

In November 2015, WTHR discovered childhood cancer rates in Johnson County higher than the state and national averages.

The Investigation also discovered dichloroethene (DCE), Tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE) contamination in an area called the Web Wellfield, a source of drinking water to residents living in the City of Franklin and in other portions of Johnson County. A spokesman from the Indiana American Water Company admitted that some of the chemicals were known carcinogens.

As a result of the WTHR reports, the Johnson County Health Officer, asked the State Department of Health to investigate childhood cancer rates in 2015.

Within days, the Indiana Department of Health released its findings. The agency said there were not enough studies to link the chemical contamination discovered at the wellfield to specific cases of childhood cancer, therefore ruled there is no cancer cluster in Johnson County.

But in its analysis, the State did not include childhood cancer cases diagnosed in 2014 and 2015.

The Indiana Department of Health registry for cancer diagnosis lags behind two years. It wasn't until June of 2017, the State could validate the 2015 numbers. Now with its registry updated, the state conducted a new analysis based on the numbers between 2001 and 2015.

New Findings: According to the State Department of Health, there were 123 childhood cancers cases overall diagnosed in Johnson County between 2001-2015. That is compared to the 113 cases IDHS considers within the normal range.

Among the most common childhood cancers, including: leukemia, brain, neuroblastoma, lymphoma, and bone cancers like Ewing sarcoma, the State reports 88-cases diagnosed, compared to 80 considered in the normal range.

Compared to state childhood cancer incident rates, Johnson County had slightly higher overall childhood cancer rates as well as among the most common childhood cancers.

Of all cancer types, Johnson county had a rate of 6.1 (per 100,000 children) compared to a 5.6 rate for the state of Indiana.

When it comes to common childhood cancers, Johnson County's rate was 4.3 compared to the state's incidence rate of 3.9.

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