The goal of the cancer inquiry (CI) process is to work with individuals or communities in exploring the nature of their cancer concern, provide health education on cancer risk factors, and, when appropriate, provide epidemiological information. DHSS staff, in consultation with the chronic disease public health epidemiologist and the CI committee, works with the local public health agencies and the communities. Staff or regional cancer coalition members may give educational presentations in locations with a cancer concern and may help to address the specific needs of that community.
The CI process focuses on determining if a perceived excess is real. If a true cluster is identified, then the CI staff will assist in the implementation of epidemiological studies, notify agencies responsible for remediation of an environmental hazard (if one exists), and educate residents in the area of concern regarding the risk and the response of state government and other agencies concerning cancer in their community.
General Notes About Cancer and Cancer Clusters
- Cancer is not one disease. Different cancers, like other chronic diseases, have different causes and risk factors.
- Cancer is very common. More than one in three women, and nearly one in two men will be affected by some type of cancer in their lifetime.
- Age, family history (genetics) and lifestyle factors (diet, exercise, alcohol or tobacco use) are usually more important risk factors for cancer than environmental contamination.
- Clustering can still be a random occurrence, even when statistical tests indicate that cancer cases are higher than expected.