NSW Health will form an expert panel to investigate any evidence of a cancer cluster in the Helensburgh area.
Last week the Mercury revealed the story of nine-year-old Helensburgh boy Matthew Young who became the sixth child in five years to be diagnosed with a blood cancer.
NSW Health has today revealed an advisory panel would bring together epidemiological, public health, clinical and environmental specialists to consider any evidence of an unexpected number of cancer cases and any risk factors.
“Given the significance of this issue and concerns in the community it is vital that all of the findings are thoroughly examined to ensure that they are accurate and evidence-based,” Illawarra Public Health Unit acting director Curtis Gregory said.
“The panel will consider past investigations, data collection and review the analysis and findings and to make further recommendations if necessary.
“The expert panel will undertake this review as a priority and together with the Public Health Unit, provide timely advice to the community in the coming weeks.’’
Mr Gregory said he hoped the NSW Health investigation would help address community concerns.
“With any disease that is rare, the number of cases in a local community will typically be quite small but can vary significantly over time without any common underlying cause,’’ he said.
Concerns about cancer cases were first raised in 2008 and since that time the Public Health Unit has monitored the occurrence of leukaemia both in Helensburgh and the broader Illawarra and Shoalhaven community, Mr Gregory said.
He said the Unit was gathering the most up-to-date Cancer Registry data to include non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would continue to monitor this information.
Last week the Mercury revealed Helensburgh mum Diane Young sparked action from health authorities after her nine-year-old son Matthew was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma, a rare but aggressive form of cancer.
Anyone concerned about an individual’s health or wellbeing should consult their treating physician or oncologist.
The Public Health Unit can be contacted on 4221 6700.