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Buffalo-Cheektowaga border identified as state cancer hotspot

National Public Radio

For 75 years, the state's Cancer Registry has been collecting detailed information about cancer among New Yorkers. The data has identified fours areas of the state where there are significantly elevated levels of certain cancers. Among those areas is Buffalo's East Sideand adjacent western Cheektowaga.

Credit New York State Cancer Registry
Most frequently diagnosed cancer types and causes of cancer death in males, New York State, 2010-2014.

The State Health Department is holding a series of public meetings in different sections of the state to talk about the cancers common in each identified hotspot. Locally, the health department will be in the Museum of Science July 19 to talk about common cancers on the East Side and in Cheektowaga.

Five of the six most common local cancers - colorectal, esophageal, kidney, lung and oral cavity (mouth and throat)- have been linked to smoking. The other common local cancer is prostate.

"Prostate cancer in our region is the number one occurring cancer for men, in terms of overall incidence. It is higher than both the New York State and U.S. average," said Christy Widman of Roswell Park Comprehenseive Cancer Center. "So that's taking all eight counties into one composite number. It definitely occurs more often in African-American men. That's nationally the trend. There may be genetic components."

Widman of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center said the Cancer Registry is very valuable for her work.

Credit New York State Cancer Registry
Most frequently diagnosed cancer types and causes of cancer death in females, New York State, 2010-2014.

"They have all the cancer information on all cases that occur, deaths, where they are, who they are happening to," Widman said. "They have a whole public database that's available for people to tap into if they are interested in their region. You can find information by race, by zip code, different things are there. Most of it is more higher level information county information. State-wide you can do some comparisons."

Widman is assistant director of Roswell Park's Office of Community Outreach and Engagement, which attempts to get the word out about cancer.

"We're in churches, we're at food kitchens, we're at community centers, talking to people, trying to educate them about cancer, getting screened for cancers, how to improve their health and reduce their risk," she said. "So those are things that we're doing on a daily basis. Certainly, we are looking to partner with anybody that is interested in this. We're here to help. We can provide resources."

Widman points out that this data is based on cancer diagnoses, not deaths.

The State Health Department will be doing deeper studies of the cancer cases in this area and the three other hotspots across New York. That data will be used to launch a statewide cancer research initiative and to enhance access to diagnosis and treatment.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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