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According to the most recent statistics provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Chester County has at or above the expected level of instances and deaths from cancer in four of five categories.
This marks the fourth time that DHEC has released a detailed breakdown of cancer in Chester County. The initiative started years ago with a map that was presented to then-Chester County Councilman Tom Hamilton. A concerned resident put a dot on the map everywhere a person lived that had suffered from cancer. The dot-covered map concerned Hamilton, who would end up being a dot on that map himself. DHEC came in to conduct water and air tests and held a series of public meetings on cancer. No longer a member of the council at that point, Hamilton went to County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey and asked if he could re-activate the cancer study that had been done a few years earlier. Roddey gave him the green light, leading to a cancer cluster study being done for each zip code in Chester County. A cancer cluster is when the number of cancers occurring is higher than would be expected by chance. Additionally, a cancer cluster would more likely involve rare kinds of cancer or an excess number of one cancer type, as opposed to small increases of several cancer types. Chester, based on information from 2002-'06, did not have any cancer clusters, but did have numerous cancer types in multiple zip codes that were higher than expected. That information was released five years ago and was updated in 2011. Chester was the first county in the state to pursue such advanced levels of study. Now, the information has been updated again. The numbers reflect cancer incidences from 2006 to 2010.
In the study period, the most common forms of cancer in Chester were lung, prostate, breast, colorectal and bladder. Lung cancer ranked the highest of the cancer types, with 187 reported cases. According to DHEC, only 144 cases were expected. That is deemed " statistically significantly higher that expected."
There were 141 cases of prostate cancer reported. That is the only listed category in which the actual number was lower than the expected number, with 150 having been expected to occur.
There were 132 confirmed cases of breast cancer in the county during the study period, right at the expected total of 131.
A total of 106 cases of colorectal cancer were reported while 88 were expected and 47 cases of bladder cancer were noted, with 34 expected. DHEC considered that number "statistically significantly higher than expected."
As for deaths caused by cancer, lung cancer was by the biggest killer of county residents. In the period study, 138 deaths were reported in Chester while 111 were expected. DHEC considered that number "statistically significantly higher than expected."
Colorectal cancer claimed the second most victims, with 38 deaths while 34 were expected. Female breast cancer deaths were also higher than expected, with 36 deaths and 26 expected.
The deaths from prostate cancer were near what was expected, with 21 deaths and 20 expected deaths. Pancreatic cancer was the only cancer form listed with fewer deaths (19) than expected deaths (23).
Next week, the News & Reporter will publish cancer instances and deaths by zip code in the county, along with incidence and mortality trends.