Oil and gas-leukemia link de­serves fur­ther study

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Lisa McKen­zie Lisa McKen­zie is an as­sis­tant re­search pro­fes­sor at the Colorado School of Pub­lic Health at CU An­schutz. This com­men­tary was also signed by the study’s coau­thors, John Adgate, Tim By­ers, Ed­ward Bedrick and Wil­liam All­shouse. The views abo

As ed­u­ca­tors, re­searchers and Colorado ci­ti­zens, we feel that Colorado fam­i­lies de­serve a safe and healthy en­vi­ron­ment no mat­ter where they live. As au­thors of a re­cent study on child­hood leukemia and prox­im­ity to oil and gas wells, we feel it im­por­tant to clar­ify re­cent mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions of our study.

Our study com­pared the fre­quency of leukemia and nonHodgkin lym­phoma be­tween chil­dren liv­ing and not liv­ing near oil and gas wells. We used a rig­or­ous de­sign called a reg­istry­based case-con­trol study and in­cluded 740 chil­dren liv­ing in ru­ral Colorado. Eighty-seven of these chil­dren had leukemia and 50 had non-Hodgkin lym­phoma. We ob­served that the chil­dren with leukemia, but not nonHodgkin lym­phoma, were more likely to live clos­est to the oil and gas wells. Be­cause we did not have ac­cess to ev­i­dence about other fac­tors that con­trib­ute to these can­cers, like ge­net­ics, these sci­en­tif­i­cally valid find­ings do not pro­vide enough ev­i­dence to say that liv­ing near oil and gas wells causes leukemia or does not cause non-Hodgkin lym­phoma.

Our study has sev­eral strengths. It was con­ducted us­ing data in the Colorado Cen­tral Can­cer Registry housed at the Colorado De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health and En­vi­ron­ment (CDPHE). This registry iden­ti­fies can­cer cases and has a “gold” cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the North Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Cen­tral Can­cer Reg­istries. It is ac­ces­si­ble to re­searchers con­duct­ing eth­i­cal re­search that pro­tects the pri­vacy of study par­tic­i­pants. Our study de­sign was re­viewed by the CDPHE and ap­proved by the Colorado Mul­ti­ple In­sti­tu­tional In­ter­nal Re­view Board. The re­sults un­der­went a rig­or­ous peer-re­view process and were pub­lished in a highly rep­utable open-ac­cess sci­en­tific jour­nal. Open ac­cess means that a sub­scrip­tion to the jour­nal is not re­quired for pub­lic ac­cess to re­search. Our study was funded with a $30,000 pi­lot grant from the Univer­sity of Colorado Can­cer Cen­ter, one of only 69 can­cer cen­ters in the U.S. rec­og­nized by the Na­tional Can­cer In­sti­tute.

All sci­en­tific stud­ies have lim­i­ta­tions, and our study is no ex­cep­tion. We are plan­ning a more de­fin­i­tive study with re­searchers from other states to ad­dress these lim­i­ta­tions. We ap­pre­ci­ate com­ments from Dr. Mike Van Dyke, chief of en­vi­ron­men­tal epi­demi­ol­ogy at CDPHE, ac­knowl­edg­ing that our study is im­por­tant and cred­it­ing us for ex­plain­ing our study’s lim­i­ta­tions and rea­sons why more study is needed. Like Dr. Larry Wolk, CDPHE di­rec­tor, we think it is very im­por­tant that more stud­ies be done to bet­ter un­der­stand the health risks and ben­e­fits that are as­so­ci­ated with oil and gas pro­duc­tion. This is be­cause hun­dreds of thou­sands of Coloradans are ei­ther liv­ing near oil and gas pro­duc­tion or are fac­ing this prospect.

Our crit­ics have made sev­eral mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions of our study that lead us to think they did not re­ally un­der­stand our rig­or­ous study de­sign. We did not use ad­min­is­tra­tive hos­pi­tal data, com­pare leukemia in oil and gas coun­ties to the statewide ex­pected av­er­ages, or test vari­ables un­til a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant as­so­ci­a­tion was found.

Our crit­ics are en­ti­tled to their opin­ions. To some, our ob­served four-fold in­crease in leukemia risk for Colorado’s chil­dren may seem “mi­nus­cule.” How­ever, our crit­ics’ opin­ions can­not change the re­al­ity that Colorado kids who live clos­est to oil and gas wells are more likely to have leukemia. It is our opin­ion that the pub­lic de­serves to know about our find­ings and have fur­ther sci­en­tif­i­cally valid stud­ies con­ducted that can pro­vide a body of ev­i­dence es­sen­tial to mak­ing pub­lic health-based de­ci­sions re­gard­ing oil and gas pro­duc­tion.

We thank the CDPHE and Univer­sity of Colorado Can­cer Cen­ter for rec­og­niz­ing the im­por­tance of ask­ing ques­tions about risks to peo­ple who live near oil and gas pro­duc­tion. This for­ward-think­ing ap­proach could save lives, pre­vent ill­ness and avoid count­less dol­lars in health care spend­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.