WRAL Investigates

State responds to mother's plea to investigate teens' cancer cases

Posted May 9, 2013
Updated May 10, 2013

— One week after the WRAL Investigates team reported on three Wake Forest teenagers battling the same rare form of cancer, state health officials have decided to investigate the cases further.

Robin Harris pushed the state to investigate after three teenagers from the same Wake Forest-Rolesville High School graduating class, including her son Alex Harris, were diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma. A fourth teen who lived nearby received the same diagnosis in 2009.

The teens all lived within a 3- to 4-mile radius of each other, prompting Harris to report concerns about a possible cancer cluster to her son’s doctor at Duke University Hospital, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and a sarcoma organization.

She and the other families say they were under the assumption that the cases would be investigated. Robin Harris says she was told the cases would be referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The WRAL Investigates team found that the state did not do a thorough investigation, the CDC was not informed of the cases and the families were kept in the dark due to an "unfortunate oversight," according to a DHHS spokeswoman.

On May 6, the director of the Central Cancer Registry, which is part of DHHS, sent a letter to Robin Harris, promising a "further review" of the cases.

"We agree the number of cases identified in the requester's school is cause for additional inquiry," according to the agency's May 6 report.

Robin Harris says she is pleased with the progress.

"We're at least getting something, which is a lot better than nothing before," she said. "I want to see something happen, and I do think they'll be trying because of the media attention." State to investigate teen cancer cases State to investigate teen cancer cases

DHHS communications director Ricky Diaz said in a statement Thursday that the agency has asked the Harris family, as well as the other families involved, to provide more information.

"Based on their answers and discussion with the patients’ health care providers, we will decide next steps," Diaz said.

Duke Hospital and public health department officials say they rely on families to report suspected cancer clusters. State health officials say they investigate 12 to 15 possible clusters a year and that confirming one is very rare. The last confirmed cancer cluster was in Greensboro in 2012, and the cause was undetermined.

Those who want to report a possible cancer cluster should call DHHS's Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology branch at 919-707-5900.

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  • Grand Union May 10, 4:02 p.m.

    " What was it Gore said about only having 10 years to do something? I think we passed that milestone haven't we?"

    LOl thats like saying just because its 5 minutes after the Titanic hit the iceberg that it wasn't going to sink!

    " We all would have been better served if the focus had remained on reducing pollution. The majority of people get that and understand the less pollution the better."

    I'm all for reducing pollution but IF you think that CO2 is an issue that does nothing to help AGW. Scientific consensus is that CO2 is a problem.

  • Grand Union May 10, 3:54 p.m.

    "
    Follow the money. I could have taken Gore much more seriously if he was not involved in the carbon credits scam.

    How was it a scam?

    I found it amazing that the same people that said we were facing horrific problems if something was not done were also supporting the idea of allowing pollution so long as the polluter paid the requisite bribe.

    Ah I see that you do not understand how markets work. The "bribe" as you call, it is a cost to the companies......they can keep paying it OR do what was intended.... ie find a way to no longer have to pay it, thereby increasing their profits and their advantage over their competitors......
    Ironically they found that way even before the scheme came into play....they bribed enough politicians and spread enough disinformation on AGW to ensure the scheme never became law......

  • whatelseisnew May 10, 12:24 p.m.

    "except that most scientists agree with Gore....and he was rich long before AGW became his hobby."

    Follow the money. I could have taken Gore much more seriously if he was not involved in the carbon credits scam. I found it amazing that the same people that said we were facing horrific problems if something was not done were also supporting the idea of allowing pollution so long as the polluter paid the requisite bribe. Yes, I call it a bribe. If you are telling me hey shut down that coal-fired plant we have a serious problem, that makes sense. But if you tell me, well we have a serious problem but if you PURCHASE carbon credits, then you can continue burning that coal, then I can only conclude you are scamming. What was it Gore said about only having 10 years to do something? I think we passed that milestone haven't we? We all would have been better served if the focus had remained on reducing pollution. The majority of people get that and understand the less pollution the better.

  • LGM May 10, 12:05 p.m.

    I suspect those who don't think any research should be done in to the coincidence of the cluster of so many cases of this rare cancer also believe that nothing should be done about gun violence.

    Kudos to this Mom, Robin Harris, for looking out for hers and other kids!

  • affirmativediversity May 10, 11:25 a.m.

    except that most scientists agree with Gore....and he was rich long before AGW became his hobby. Me, I'm agnostic on the subject.....however most of the "costs" of dealing with it are things we should be doing anyway. Burning "dead dinosaurs" has lots of bad side effects other than C02 emissions.
    per Grand Union

    ----------------

    Except NOW all those scientists that agree with Al Gore are wondering, aloud,why the "Globe isn't Warming"...

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204301404577171531838421366.html

  • Grand Union May 10, 10:56 a.m.

    I suspect that this is more public relations than anything else. Fact is that cancer clusters are not that uncommon and its rare for there to be any cause found.....this is partly because probability allows such clusters.

    "There is science and then there is the Al Gore perpetrated scam of Global Warming or is it Climate Change or maybe its Man Made Whatever or it could just be weather...either way Al Gore is a multi-multi millionaire because of the hoax."

    except that most scientists agree with Gore....and he was rich long before AGW became his hobby. Me, I'm agnostic on the subject.....however most of the "costs" of dealing with it are things we should be doing anyway. Burning "dead dinosaurs" has lots of bad side effects other than C02 emissions.

  • affirmativediversity May 10, 9:41 a.m.

    How are they supposed to find out exactly what caused the cancer in these 3 people when scientists all over the world have spent millions of dollars studying this kind of cancer for decades and have never been able to pin down any environmental cause for it? per Kaitlyn

    ----------------

    This may be a great opportunity for 'real scientists' (you know the kind that actually study cause and effect without bias or political agenda) to study or identify an important contributing or exacerbating factor.

  • affirmativediversity May 10, 9:38 a.m.

    hmm... but the gotp passed a law saying the state cannot use science to determine the validity of things, of course, that was to prevent caring about climate change but lat I knew science will be needed for this too. per melanie3

    ------------

    There is science and then there is the Al Gore perpetrated scam of Global Warming or is it Climate Change or maybe its Man Made Whatever or it could just be weather...either way Al Gore is a multi-multi millionaire because of the hoax.

    Meanwhile we little people get to cram ourselves into smaller and smaller cars, use mercury laced light bulbs and pay higher and higher prices for basics ALL so the "Global Warming Hoax can be fed"

  • affirmativediversity May 10, 9:33 a.m.

    Duke, UNC, DHHS and the CDC just blow you off as a crazy, conspiracy nut whenever you attempt to report a cluster...especially if the common factor is a government building.
    Example...Hoke County DSS, a department with under 100 staff total has had, over the last 5 cases of breast cancer, 4 of them within the last 5 years. Actually 4 of them with a 2 year window. This after numerous complaints of a "sick building" had been made because of unusual and chronic respiratory illnesses...NOTHING WAS DONE. Duke wasn't interested...DHHS certainly wasn't interested since Social Services falls within their Department and the CDC more or less told the complaining women they were crazy.

  • Kaitlyn May 10, 8:53 a.m.

    How are they supposed to find out exactly what caused the cancer in these 3 people when scientists all over the world have spent millions of dollars studying this kind of cancer for decades and have never been able to pin down any environmental cause for it?

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