Health panel to investigate cancer cluster

NSW Health will form an expert panel to investigate any evidence of a cancer cluster in the Helensburgh area.

Nine-year-old Matthew Young became the sixth child in five years to be diagnosed with a blood cancer, prompting his mum Dianne to call for authorities to investigate.

NSW Health yesterday said 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.

MORE: Fears of Helensburgh child cancer cluster

"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.

These concerns about cancer cases were first raised in 2008. Since then the Public Health Unit has monitored occurrences of leukaemia in Helensburgh and the community, Mr Gregory 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.

Mrs Young said yesterday she was extremely happy authorities were taking notice.

"I welcome this news and I'm really happy to see something is being done," she said.

"I'm very interested to read the 2008 report."

Wollongong councillor Greg Petty said he was pleased the health unit had reacted to the concerns of the community.

"I am very fortunate that I have been in close consultation with community members, and was able to supply specific data on location of cases, history of particular sites and schools attended by the various children," he said.

"Such data may not have been readily available to Health from its data, which appears to be traditionally reported by postcode."

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