Overall Cancer Incidence Not Higher Among Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Employees, Community Residents, Report Indicates
The overall incidence of cancer among employees of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Livermore community members has not been higher than normal, "with the curious exception of melanoma," a skin cancer, according to a report by the Department of Health Services and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released Friday, the Oakland Tribune reports (Fischer, Oakland Tribune, 4/24). The report, "Review of Health Studies Relevant to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Surrounding Community," examined at cancer rates and rates of birth defects in children of lab employees and in city residents (Kazmi, Contra Costa Times, 4/24). The report is a compilation of the results of 18 publicly available cancer studies -- including studies on bone, brain, breast, lung and thyroid cancers; Hodgkin's disease; leukemia; and melanoma -- conducted between 1960 and 1997. DHS spokesperson Lea Brooks said that the report "does not draw specific conclusions" and is intended to "put information in one place."
Melanoma rates among lab employees were three times higher than expected between the 1970s and the mid-1980s, but since about 1985, melanoma rates have decreased, the report says. Another study found that melanoma rates among residents were elevated among children and young adults. A California Cancer Registry study suggested a correlation between ionizing radiation exposure among lab employees and increased melanoma risk, but a subsequent study conducted by the lab did not confirm the results (Oakland Tribune, 4/24). Some researchers have said the increased melanoma risk might be attributed to the city's location in a "very sunny part of the Bay Area" and a population consisting of a significant percentage of fair-skinned people prone to sunburn, a trait that can lead to skin cancer, the Times reports. The most recent study, released in 2001, reported that most cancer rates among Livermore residents were lower than rates among the general Bay Area population, with the exception of testicular cancer and malignant melanoma among men (Contra Costa Times, 4/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.