Fridley's cancer rate "not unusual," says new state analysis

Last month, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health found that Fridley's cancer rate is about 10 percent above the statewide norm -- a finding that prompted environmental activist Erin Brockovich to announce her investigative team is looking into possible causes of the so-called Fridley cancer cluster.

Today, a new state analysis concludes Fridley's cancer problem isn't as pronounced as it first seemed. The analysis also suggests Anoka County's historically high smoking rate might be partly to blame for Fridley's elevated cancer rate.

"Fridley's elevated overall cancer rate appears to be due largely to its high lung cancer rate," says a Health Department news release.

The new state analysis found that the cancer rate in Fridley is about 7.6 percent higher than the state average, not the 10 percent originally reported by the epidemiologist last month.

Says the new analysis: "It's not unusual to find communities that have a rate of cancer five to 10 percent above expected and as many that are five to 10 percent below expected."

The state's "not unusual" conclusion is supported by Dr. Tom Amatruda, a genetic specialist at Minnesota Oncology's Fridley clinic. In a recent interview with Fridley Patch, Amatruda attributed Fridley's elevated cancer rate to a quirk of statistics and smoking.

When it was suggested that the four National Priorities List Superfund sites in the Fridley area could be a cause of Fridley's cancer cluster, Amatruda acknowledged  there could be "some factors from them," but said smoking dwarfed contamination as a risk factor for cancer.

"I would think about it more if there was a strong cluster of a very rare cancer," Amatruda said. "A cluster is going to have to be at least two or three times higher to see it stick up above the statistical variation."

Related coverage:
-- Erin Brockovich investigating Fridley's elevated cancer rates

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