MP demands action on Gladstone cancer jump

Independent Gladstone MP Liz Cunningham has called on the Health Minister to investigate new cancer data that has revealed higher incidence in Gladstone compared with the Queensland average.

Ms Cunningham (pictured) said she wanted Deputy Premier and Health Minister Paul Lucas to look into the new data, which showed a 10 percent higher cancer rate in Gladstone compared to all of Queensland.

“I’d like him to have a look at the breakdown in the cancer report, find out the types of cancer, the contributors to that cancer and say whether Gladstone presents as a cluster,” she said.

The Queensland Cancer Council this month released data showing on average 132 people in Gladstone were diagnosed with cancer every year between 2003 and 2007.

Queensland Cancer Council public affairs director Anne Savage said the 10 percent figure was comprised of all cancer types, but the increased risk appeared to be driven in part by increases in lung cancer and melanoma.

Ms Cunningham said reports such as this worried residents.

“Generally speaking the people in Gladstone are concerned to see anything that is negative where Gladstone is above the average. We want to know why we’re above the average,” she said.

“I think the most common question is ‘Does the industry or the industry mix contribute to that?'”

The new data comes after the Queensland Health’s Clean and Healthy Air for Gladstone Project delivered its final report earlier this month into the link between air quality and the high rate of Chronic Lymphoid Leukaemia in the Gladstone area, which was more than double the Queensland average between 1996 and 2004.

Mr Lucas said in State Parliament last week the report had found no link between the level of pollutants in Gladstone’s air and the rate of cancer.

“There is no reason people of that city should have to worry that polluted air endangers their health,” he said.

He said the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2010 report stated regional areas in general had a higher risk of cancers resulting from smoking and sun exposure.

But Ms Cunningham said she wanted Mr Lucas to do more to assess the new data, including investigations into the breakdown of the types of cancers contained in the report.

“That’s not the answer, just to sort of flick it and say well it’s melanoma and lung cancer and people can act more responsibly,” she said.

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