Fort Chipewyan rare cancer cases cry out for study; Fort Chipewyan councillor latest resident diagnosed with rare cancer, ‘How can this keep happening?’

Cancer cases cry out for study by The Calgary Herald, December 17, 2013
It’s been a decade since Dr. John O’Connor sounded alarm bells over the elevated cancer rates at Fort Chipewyan, yet no independent study has been done to determine what may be causing them. The Alberta government’s impending release of the latest information on cancer rates is not enough. It must be followed up with a study that would include environmental assays to establish the presence of carcinogens. Any particular compound or combination of compounds found would then need to be tested on animals in experiments, and wildlife living in the area would also need to be examined. As Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam says, “We need to know what is causing the disease.”

It frankly verges on the scandalous that the will to commission an independent study just hasn’t been there. If such a cluster of elevated cancer rates were found among citizens living in a Calgary neighbourhood, a study would not have taken a decade to materialize. The reluctance to further investigate seems to stem from a provincial reluctance to rock the boat when it comes to anything to do with the oilsands. What’s going on in Fort Chipewyan, however, is a public health issue. The cause of these persistent cancer clusters needs to be found so that a solution can be developed — and that may entail moving the community elsewhere. But first, causation must be established. The Redford government must commission an independent study immediately — and that means one over which no one from the industry has any jurisdiction. This must be purely an arm’s-length scientific endeavour. It is very long overdue. [Emphasis added]

Fort Chipewyan councillor latest resident diagnosed with rare cancer, ‘How can this keep happening?’ by Marty Klinkenberg, December 17, 2013, Edmonton Journal
On Oct. 29, the day after Chadi was sworn in as a councillor in the municipality of Wood Buffalo, the couple travelled to Edmonton. He had not been feeling well, and she insisted he see a doctor. “His symptoms were vague, but he looked really, really sick,” Voyageur said. “His skin had started to turn yellow.” Within 48 hours, Chadi was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, the same extremely rare incurable disease that has stricken other residents of Fort Chipewyan, a remote First Nations community with a population of about 1,100 people in northeast Alberta. A cancer of the bile duct, cholangiocarcinoma occurs in one of every 100,000 to 200,000 people — yet Fort Chipewyan has had three confirmed diagnoses and several other suspected cases over the last decade. “It has been two months, and I still can’t believe it,” Voyageur says. “How can this keep happening in a community this size?” A 2009 report by the Alberta Cancer Board found rates for some malignancies 30 per cent higher than normal in Fort Chipewyan. Despite urging, the Alberta government never undertook a study to explain those elevated rates, and is currently on the verge of announcing new figures. … And even though the cause is unknown, Chadi presents a puzzling profile. Unlike other residents of Fort Chipewyan diagnosed with the disease, he is not aboriginal. Chadi is Lebanese. “For 16 years, though, he has lived in Fort Chipewyan and has been drinking the water and eating the fish,” says Claris, a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation. Chadi has had his gall bladder and a portion of his liver removed, and is considering going to Houston for a consultation at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. “Every day we sit there and talk about what’s happened,” Claris Voyageur says. “Why did this happen to him? Somebody, please answer me.” Nine years ago, she lost an uncle to the same disease. “Sometimes it is hard for me to talk about,” Voyageur says. “My uncle was 60, and John is also 60. “When is enough, enough?” [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

2012: Dr. David Schindler: Tar Sands Science “Shoddy”, “Must Change”

2007: What more input does Stelmach need? ]

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