A state study released yesterday found that from 2002 to 2011, the female breast cancer rate for Flower Mound residents was significantly higher than surrounding areas.Even better? Officials have no idea why.
Last April, after allegations of a faulty previous study, the Department of State Health Services agreed to conduct an analysis of cancer clusters around the state, with a focus on Flower Mound. The Department had concluded in 2010, despite suspicions of increased cancer rates in the area, that there were no cancer clusters in Flower Mound. But the University of Texas published a report in April that criticized the methods of the 2010 study.
In the results of this latest study, the DSHS did not seek to find a cause but only to document local and statewide cancer incidence rates. The study found that several other cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma, had comparatively normal rates. The study zeroed in on zip codes 75022 and 75028, which had the highest rates of female breast cancer.
The lack of variable cancers indicates that there is likely no environmental factor which could be causing the rise in local cancer. Which is good news, but also means officials have no idea why there is a higher rate of breast cancer in Flower Mound.
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There are a number of other factors that can contribute to the cause: lifestyle, genetics, gender, age. Some are still pointing to local fracking practices, although the city stresses it has continually and carefully measured local air and water quality. Catherine Ball is a Flower Mound resident who is currently battling leukemia. "I'm a little surprised," she told WFAA. "It's hard to believe that there can't be some something, that there isn't something going on."
The next obvious guess would be demographics. Flower Mound residents could share certain genetics -- in general, white women are more likely to develop breast cancer than women of other races -- or lifestyle factors. Many Flower Mound women could be spending a significant amount of time in a space where carcinogens are found.
"What we do know is that the risk factors for breast cancer are multiple and many factors come into play," says Carrie Williams, a spokesperson for the Department of State Health Services. "Now obviously we are committed to continuing the conversation with the community, and continuing to monitor cancer rates in the area and across the state."
Perhaps the worst scenario is that the higher incidence rate could be completely random. "Somebody who has breast cancer knows it's a serious situation," says Williams. "This is a good opportunity to remind people to talk to their doctors about annual exams and mammograms. Mammograms are the best way to detect early cancer."