by Andrew Walden
Anti-GMO conspiracy theorists have been pushing the claim that a so-called "cancer cluster" is emerging on Kauai. Having made the claim, they then attribute the alleged "cluster" to either pesticides, GMOs, or both--depending on their rhetorical needs at the moment. The hype reached a national audience with a September 4, 2013 Salon article headline screaming about a "suspected cancer cluster."
Now the State Department of Health and UH Cancer Center have re-released the April, 2013 Hawai'i Tumor Registry Report showing that Kauai has fewer cancers per capita than the rest of the state and fewer than the US average.
Here are the key findings:
In general, cancer incidence on Kaua‘i was similar to or lower than that of the entire state of Hawai‘i.
Overall cancer incidence rates (all cancers combined) were significantly lower on Kaua‘i compared to the entire state of Hawai‘i for both time periods (2000-2004 and 2005-2009).
Cancer incidence rates on Kaua‘i were lower for the following cancers during one or both time periods:
- breast cancer (2000-2004 and 2005-2009), endometrial cancer (2005-2009), Hodgkin lymphoma
- (2005-2009), liver cancer (2005-2009), ovarian cancer (2000-2004 and 2005-2009), prostate cancer
- (2000-2004), and thyroid cancer (2000-2004 and 2005-2009).
The incidence of melanoma (a type of skin cancer) on Kaua‘i was significantly elevated for the time period 2000-2004.
Within individual census tracts of Kaua‘i, cancer incidence was generally lower or comparable to that of the state.
The incidence of melanoma for census tract 401 was significantly elevated for the time period 2000-2004. No other census tract showed elevated rates of cancer. (Census tract 401 is Hanalei.)
The DoH explains: "The analysis found that cancers of the breast, endometrium, Hodgkin lymphoma, liver, ovary, prostate and thyroid were lower on Kauai compared to the entire state of Hawaii. Higher rates of melanoma on Kauai were found and may be explained by a larger proportion of older adults of Caucasian ancestry with high levels of lifetime sun exposure residing in the northern region of Kauai."
The only thing resembling a 'cancer cluster' consists of surfers in Hanalei who spend too much time in the sun and therefore get skin cancer a lot. This is ironic because the key leaders of the anti-GMO movement are described in a recent interview as coming from "Da Hui Surf Club, a group of surfers responsible for enforcing disputes over waves during the North Shore’s busy season." Therefore the cancer rate on Kauai is most likely being elevated by the chosen lifestyle of anti-GMO activists, not by those they protest.
Read it here: Kauai Cancer Rates April, 2013, Updated September, 2013
DoH: News Release Sept 26, 2013
KGI: DOH: Kauai cancer rates not unusual
Salon: "As a suspected cancer cluster invades Hawaii, residents are torn between GMO jobs and the health of the people"