Cancer registry director to meet with Hampden officials about Coldbrook Road cancer concerns

Posted Oct. 22, 2013, at 5:52 p.m.
Jim Barrows, who has cancer, is shown with his medications at his home in Hampden. After noticing that some of his neighbors also have cancer, he hopes to enlist the state's help in determining whether these cancers are connected to the area of town in which they live.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Jim Barrows, who has cancer, is shown with his medications at his home in Hampden. After noticing that some of his neighbors also have cancer, he hopes to enlist the state's help in determining whether these cancers are connected to the area of town in which they live.

HAMPDEN, Maine — Town officials are set to meet with a state health official next month for a briefing on cancer concerns raised by a Coldbrook Road resident.

Resident Jim Barrows initially brought his concerns to town officials in 2002. At that time, he knew of 15 people with some form of cancer living on the section of Coldbrook Road that runs from H.O. Bouchard Inc. to Coldbrook Equestrian.

Barrows said earlier this month that he now knows of 33 cases within that span, which has a total of 20 residences. Barrows said he wanted the state to determine if there was an underlying cause for what he sees as an elevated cancer rate on his road. The now-closed Pine Tree Landfill is located nearby, as are several trucking companies.

Dr. Molly Schwenn, director of the Maine Cancer Registry, noted in a March 2010 email to Hampden town officials that cancer data from the Maine Cancer Registry showed that the cancer rate for Hampden was “similar to that of Penobscot County but higher than the state as a whole.” Schwenn said that while state health officials found the common kinds of cancer they expected to find in Hampden and elsewhere in Maine, they also noted that colorectal cancer was occurring in a younger age distribution than expected, possibly due to familial disposition.

Despite a series of letters and emails written on his behalf to officials at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Cancer Registry, Barrows said he has yet to get the answers he is seeking.

During a meeting earlier this month, town councilors voted to ask Schwenn to take another look into the Coldbrook Road matter.

“She indicated that she would be happy to come to a council meeting but that she needed to have a list provided to her and be able to research information on those cases so that she would be adequately able to address the council’s concerns,” Town Manager Susan Lessard said Monday night.

The discussion is tentatively set for Monday, Nov. 18, Lessard said.

In Maine, cancer trends are analyzed by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which maintains the Maine Cancer Registry. The registry is a statewide population-based cancer reporting system. The registry collects information about most newly diagnosed and treated cancers in Maine residents from treatment providers.

The data is used to monitor and evaluate cancer incidence patterns in Maine and to develop a better understanding of cancer, identify areas in need of public health interventions and improve cancer prevention, treatment and control.

According to the registry’s Web page, most local cancer rates appear high because cancer is common. One out of three people in the United States and in Maine will develop cancer during his or her lifetime.

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