Cancer

Cancer is very common and is a group of over 100 different diseases with different causes and risk factors. In general, most cancers are related to a combination of factors, including:
  • Family
  • Heredity
  • Life-style factors, such as:
    • Alcohol consumption
    • Diet
    • Exercise
    • Smoking
    • Sunlight exposure
  • Personal health history
  • Reproductive patterns

Cancer Screening Services
View information about the county's public cancer screening services.

New Jersey Cancer Trial Connect
New Jersey Cancer Trial Connect offers patients access to cancer prevention and treatment options as participants in the latest cancer research trails going on right here in New Jersey. Patients can register online by entering information about their cancer history and the site's data base will find a clinical trial match.

Cancer Deaths
In 2005, an estimated 570,280 people in the United States will die of cancer and about 1.37 million people will be diagnosed with cancer. According to the SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2002, released online, men have a 46% lifetime risk of being diagnosed with any type of cancer and women have a 38% chance of being diagnosed with any type of cancer. (Note about graph: These statistics are based on invasive cancers only, except for "All Sites," which includes invasive and in situ bladder cancers. Basal and squamous cell cancers of the skin are not included in these statistics.)
Graph of percent risk of being diagnosed with cancer by site in lifetime
Chart prepared by the Cancer Epidemiology Services, New Jersey State Department of Health and Senior Services based on an earlier version from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 93, Number 10, May 16, 2001.

Source: SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2002 (NCI 2005); Cancer Facts and Figures 2005, American Cancer Society.
Cancer Clusters
A cancer cluster is defined as a greater-than-expected number of cancer cases that occurs within a group of people in a geographic area over a defined period of time.

Characteristics
What first appears to be a cancer cluster may not be one after all. A review of the situation may show that the number of new cancer cases is in the expected range for the population and therefore that the cases do not represent a cancer cluster. Cancer cases are more likely to represent a cancer cluster if they involve:
  • A rare type of cancer
  • A single type of cancer
  • A type of cancer in a group not usually affected by that cancer, such as a cancer in children that is normally seen in adults
However, cases of common cancers are those most often perceived and reported by the public as being part of a cancer cluster.

Identification The investigators develop a "case" definition, a time period of concern, and the population at risk. They then calculate the expected number of cases and compare them to the observed number. A cluster is confirmed when the observed/expected ratio is greater than 1:0, and the difference is statistically significant. Usually, a local or state health department provides the first response to a suspected cancer cluster. The local or state health department gathers information about the suspected cancer cluster (e.g., types of cancer, number of cases, addresses and occupations of those people with cancer, possible causes), develops and applies the case definition, and determines whether there is a greater-than-expected number of cases.

Interpretation
Confirmation of a cancer cluster does not necessarily mean that there is any single, external cause or hazard that can be addressed. A confirmed cancer cluster could be the result of any of the following:
  • Chance
  • Differences in the case definition between observed cases and expected cases
  • Known causes of cancer (e.g., smoking)
  • Miscalculation of the expected number of cancer cases (e.g., not considering a risk factor within the population at risk)
  • Unknown cause(s) of cancer
Follow-up investigations can be done, but can take years to complete and the results are generally inconclusive (e.g., usually, no cause is found).

More Information
If you would like information on cancer statistics or trends in your area, you can contact the Cape May County Department of Health at 609-463-6690 or the New Jersey Cancer Epidemiology Services at 609-588-3500.