Assessment Finds Elevated Cancer Rates in Parts of Eastern Harris County

Expert review to determine if further study is recommended

News Release
June 19, 2015

The Texas Department of State Health Services today released an assessment showing more cases of certain types of cancer than expected in parts of eastern Harris County compared with the rest of the state. The assessment, conducted in response to community concerns, looks at reported cases of cancer and does not attempt to determine possible causes.

The most notable findings include a greater-than-expected incidence of childhood glioma in one census tract, a greater-than-expected incidence of childhood melanoma in another census tract and a greater-than-expected incidence of childhood retinoblastoma in two census tracts. While these cancers are rare and few total cases were identified, the analysis determined that these findings are significant enough to warrant a discussion of whether additional study is feasible.

The assessment also found more cases than expected of childhood lymphoma and melanoma, more cases than expected of brain and cervical cancer, and fewer cases than expected of thyroid cancer in the area as a whole. In performing the assessment, DSHS epidemiologists followed guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. They evaluated 17 different types of cancer in 38 census tracts and the area as a whole, comparing the actual number of cases to the number expected given the population. This is step two in a possible four-step process for evaluating concerns about areas where there may be an elevated incidence of cancer. The first step was gathering and responding to community concerns.

In the next step, DSHS will consult with a group of internal and external experts in cancer, epidemiology, toxicology and environmental issues to evaluate whether a follow-up epidemiologic study is both feasible and recommended. A member of the community will be included to represent the community’s interests. Among other considerations, the group will discuss whether a study would be able to associate the cancers occurring at higher rates with specific risk factors.

DSHS has conducted more than 400 cancer cluster investigations since 2000. The agency’s Texas Cancer Registry has more than 2 million records of cancer patients. It is the primary source of Texas cancer data and is the fourth-largest registry in the U.S. The Texas Cancer Registry was authorized by the Texas Legislature in 1989.

The full assessment can be found at


(News Media Contact: Chris Van Deusen, DSHS Press Officer, 512-776-7753)

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