What’s a Cancer Cluster?

What is a cancer cluster? Sounds scary, I know, and for good reason. It is scary, and drives home the message our environment matters.

A cancer cluster is defined as a geographic area with a statistically higher than average occurrence of cancer among its residents. So, if we expect 10% of a population to get a specific cancer, and in one geographic area, 15% get this kind of cancer, it can be considered a cancer cluster.

My mom, who died from ovarian cancer, was likely raised in a cancer cluster in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I have always heard there is more incidence of breast cancer in Bergen County, NJ where I live, and in Long Island where two of my sisters live. It does seem, see maps below and click on them for better, clearer info, parts of Long Island and parts of Bergen County have higher overall cancer rates than other areas. Is it the air, the water, the habits of the community? What do we do? Move?

The best way to decrease your risk from any cancer is to have an overall, healthy, moderate lifestyle. This includes decreased stress, NO smoking, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, minimal alcohol and opting for fresh, healthy foods over processed. This will improve your chances of avoiding cancer, but even the most healthy among us can receive this dreaded diagnosis. Stay up to date with screenings and your doctor visits. If you think something is wrong, have it checked out. As I’ve said many times before, especially to women, there are no prizes at the end of the day for “selflessly” gutting it out. Don’t blame the soil if you don’t get your mammogram.


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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness Coach. She helps clients with parenting issues, the challenges of college and young adulthood and issues related to health and habits. Email her at drkarenlatimer@gmail.com to learn more. She is the author of the Audible Original, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents.


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