Cancer cluster investigation to be widened

May 7, 2020 BY

There have been community fears expressed about a possible cancer cluster on the Bellarine Peninsula, particularly in Barwon Heads.

AN INVESTIGATION into a possible cancer cluster on the Bellarine Peninsula has been widened, and the move has bipartisan support from Geelong federal MPs.
The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs held a public hearing for the investigation via teleconference on Friday, May 1.
Speakers at the hearing included Cancer Council Victoria, community group Discovery 3227, Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the City of Greater Geelong council.
In its earlier submission to the inquiry, the DHSS stated an epidemiological analysis of Victorian Cancer Registry data found “no material evidence of excess cancer rates in residents of the Barwon Heads area over the period 2001-2016 for the specific cancer types examined (including, among others, multiple myeloma, leukaemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, brain and central nervous system cancer, or breast and liver cancer) or for all those cancers combined for all ages, and for all those cancers combined in only 10-34 year-olds”.
This was challenged repeatedly at the hearing by committee member and Victorian Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson, who said the state government’s investigation was deficient because locals feared many of the cases were linked with the City of Greater Geelong’s mosquito spraying program from the early 1980s onwards.
“As I stated today, there were very major shortfalls in the Victorian Government’s analysis of a possible cancer cluster. How can this analysis be credible when some two decades of data has been excluded?
“Ross Harrison of Discovery 3227 gave some very damning evidence about the deficiencies of the scientific analysis and the conclusions that there was nothing to see here.
“On behalf of the Victorian Government, I am pleased that Professor Sutton has agreed to extend the study to cover the period 1985-2001.”
Corangamite Labor federal member Libby Coker said she welcomed “any further reasonable review or investigation that helps clarify or elaborate any aspect of the matters” in the investigation.
“Whether there is a ‘cluster’ of cases with a common causal link is something that only the scientists and epidemiologists can determine. However, it is a fact that a number of people in their 20s and 30s have suffered, and indeed a number have died, from cancer on the Bellarine. My heart goes out to them and their families. They are looking for reasons and to understand why this has occurred.
“This is a matter for the scientists and expert advice. It should be above politics. I have no reason to believe that there is any cover-up or obfuscation occurring.”