The Governor’s Cancer Research Initiative is out with its findings on why residents along the Buffalo-Cheektowaga border have a higher incidence of six cancers, compared to the rest of New York State. Its recommendations, however, are generic for cancer prevention overall.
Cancer is now the second-leading cause of death in New York State and across the United States, but four regions of the state - including along the Buffalo-Cheektowaga border - have significantly higher rates for colorectal, esophageal, kidney, lung, oral cavity (mouth and throat) and prostate cancer.
Researchers said the higher rates for the 43,00 residents in East Buffalo and West Cheektowaga were observed "mainly in men."
"Men overall had statistically significantly higher than expected incidence of esophageal, lung, colorectal, prostate (male-only) and kidney cancer," the report said. "Women overall had statistically significantly higher than expected incidence of kidney cancers."
Researchers said it is likely tobacco use contributed to the elevated incidence of lung, oral, esophageal, kidney and colorectal cancers. Some 30% of the area's 43,000 residents are smokers, compared to 17% for the rest of the state.
More people in the area are also obese, and more people had hospital visits related to smoking and obesity, compared to the rest of the state.
Historically, the area was home to several industrial facilities, but researchers said data was insufficient to link possible hazardous substances to higher cancer rates. Likewise for other environmental factors that were investigated, including radon, outdoor pollution, drinking water contaminants, traffic and access to healthy food.
Not only are cancer rates higher, but major sociodemographics are higher:
- Race: 70% of the population is black, while most of Erie County and the state outside New York City is white.
- Income: Median household incomes are significantly lower and poverty is about double.
- Employment: Unemployment is about double.
- Health Insurance: More residents are on public health insurance versus private insurance.
The Department of Health said it will use its findings "to enhance community cancer prevention, recommend appropriate screening efforts and support access to appropriate high-quality health care." However, its recommendations appear standard for cancer prevention:
- Reducing tobacco and alcohol use
- Promoting healthy eating and exercise
- Cancer screenings and education
- Radon and other environmental testing and mitigation
The state Health Department has scheduled a meeting to discuss the results for Oct. 22 at the Buffalo Museum of Science.