Lifestyle

Is there a cancer cluster in a CQ mining town?

THE support for Heath Pearce as he battles leukaemia has overwhelmed his family, but tragically, he's not the only one in Dysart battling the disease.

In fact, the number of cases in their small town has prompted his mum Jasmine Pearce to create their own 'Dysart Cancer Club' on Facebook.

Jasmine said her son Heath, 4, was the first of five young children she knew of in Dysart, a small town of about 3000, to be diagnosed with leukaemia in just over two years.

"Heath was the first one, we had two boys who lived in Dysart then moved away, then another boy with the same variety … and we just had a little girl diagnosed," she said.

On top of that, Jasmine knows of one little boy who has a tumour on his spine, and one adult who also suffers from leukaemia.

Cancer Council Queensland spokeswoman Katie Clift said in Central Queensland more than 1100 people were diagnosed with cancer every year, and about 400 people died each year.

"The latest data available shows that between 2007 and 2011, 170 people were diagnosed with leukaemia in Central Queensland, including children," she said.

"While childhood cancer is relatively rare, between the five-year period, 280 children aged zero to 14 were diagnosed with some form of cancer in Central Queensland, excluding squamous and basal cell skin cancers."

Mackay Hospital and Health Service was not able to confirm the exact number of leukaemia cases in Dysart.

In 2007 Queensland Health began an investigation into a higher-than-average rate of leukaemia in Gladstone, but they found no link between the increase in cases and industry in the region.

At the time it was reported there were 22 cases of chronic lymphoid leukaemia in the Gladstone-Calliope area between 1996 and 2004, above the state average of 14.

Community advocate Jim Pearce said he remembered Dysart residents raising concerns about an increase in cancer cases about 10 years ago.

However, he said Queensland Health at the time assured the community their data did not show an increase above the average figures.

Dysart has been battling water quality issues for four years but Isaac Shire Council assured residents in January there was no health risk with the supply.

In January about 640 people signed a petition calling for an explanation and solution to the water quality issues at Dysart.

Topics:  cancer, cancer council queensland, dysart, water



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