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Radon-induced lung cancer

West Salem cancer cases attract international interest, more research

A Massachusetts-based researcher will partner with experts in Oregon and England to study whether there is a link between radon and a rare childhood bone cancer called osteosarcoma.

The study was prompted by a cancer cluster in West Salem, said Chris Neurath, research director for the American Environmental Health Studies Project. Neurath has been studying osteosarcoma for about eight years, he said.

At least five West Salem children were diagnosed with osteosarcoma between 2008 and 2012. Three have died.

“This cluster is very dramatic in terms of numbers and the improbability that it could occur by chance,” Neurath said.

A 2006 study in England found a strong link between osteosarcoma and radon in homes. No such study has been done in the United States, Neurath said.

“The West Salem situation seemed like an opportunity that was rather unusual, that could help find out causes of osteosarcoma generally, not just in West Salem,” he said.

The Invisible Killer in Your Home

“I thought I was surely going to die … panic set in.”

These are the words of Dennie Edwards, written in 2008, shortly before he passed away after a four-year battle with radon-linked lung cancer. Edwards is one of the more than 21,000 Americans who die every year from the disease — caused by an invisible, odorless killer.

Barb Sorgatz, 60, was far luckier. Her lung cancer was caught extremely early. Still, as a never-smoker, the news floored her.

“It was a shock. I was just shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” she told weather.com of her 2006 diagnosis. “I said, ‘What am I going to do?’"

Study of Environmental Exposure to Cancer-Causing Agents in West Salem Almost Ready for Release

Did environmental exposure cause bone cancer in at least five West Salem children?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is completing a preliminary site assessment at five locations in West Salem to try to answer that question.

Officials expect to release their report in the first or second week of December, EPA spokesman Mark MacIntyre said.

The study is in response to demands from the public after 17-year-old West Salem High School student Lisa Harder died in November 2012. She was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2009.

At least four other West Salem youths have been diagnosed with the same type of bone cancer in recent years.

Last November, residents gathered more than a thousand signatures on two petitions asking the EPA to investigate the string of cancer cases. In December the agency agreed.

Experts Stress Radon Gas Awareness

Andrew Gilbert wants Minnesotans to test for radon.

A colorless, odorless and radioactive gas that comes from soil, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the United States, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

“We need to stress that this is a persistent health risk in Minnesota,” said Gilbert, a radon program specialist at the MDH.

Minnesota and several other states require homes to have working carbon monoxide detectors, but most states don’t mandate radon testing.

“Ironically, the risk from dying from radon that you are exposed to in the home is about 70 times greater than dying from carbon monoxide exposure in the home,” said Bill Angell, a University of Minnesota professor who has studied indoor air quality and radon extensively.

The MDH estimates one in three Minnesota homes has radon levels that pose a severe health risk for people over many years of exposure, and experts say testing is needed.

Radon is Seen as a Leading Factor in Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers

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It's the number one killer for cancer, it's not breast cancer, colon cancer or even prostate cancer.

It's lung cancer.

The number of people who die ever year from lung cancer is more than those other cancers combined.

And while studies are still being done to provide a direct link, experts say radon is one of the leading factors in non-smokers getting lung cancer.

Iowa Homes at Higher Risk for Elevated Radon Levels

Iowa Homes at Higher Risk for Elevated Radon Levels

It's silent. It's invisible. It sneaks into homes, often through basements, and kills hundreds of Iowans each year. But it's not some mythical predator; it's a gas.

As uranium deposits in the soil breakdown, they produce radon. When inhaled, particles of the colorless, odorless, tasteless gas continue their radioactive decay, which can cause lung cancer and other health problems.

January is National Radon Action Month.

William Field, a University of Iowa Public Health professor who specializes in radon, said the gas is the leading environmental cause of cancer death in the United States.

"Most homes are not built radon resistant," Field said. "It can move into the home through cracks in the foundation."

Dr. Joseph Merchant, an oncologist with the McFarland Clinic and Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center, said he has no doubt that many non-smokers who develop lung cancer do so because of radon exposure.

'No one should get lung cancer from radon'

'No one should get lung cancer from radon'

A two-year lung cancer survivor, Gail Orcutt has shared her story many times, with one unexpected detail — she’s never smoked. Her cancer was attributed to prolonged exposure to radon — a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas produced from the decay of naturally occurring uranium in the soil.

“Iowans are in so much danger, and they don’t know it,” Orcutt said. “This has got to be the most preventable type of cancer there is. No one should get lung cancer from radon.”

Orcutt was diagnosed in May 2010 after suffering a cough and wheeze believed to be from allergies. Secondhand smoke was one cause physicians considered until Orcutt read a magazine article about radon. That led her to test her Pleasant Hill home.

The results came back at 6.9 pCi/L. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends homes with levels above 4 install radon-mitigation systems. In Iowa, seven of 10 homes have levels above that — the highest in the U.S.

Lung Cancer Awareness Highlights Dangers of Radon Gas

The month of November is recognized as Lung Cancer Awareness Month bringing attention to a disease claiming more than 160,000 lives each year.

As the leading cause of cancer deaths in America, lung cancer is responsible for more deaths each year than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

Smoking is widely known as the leading cause of lung cancer, but officials urge area residents to be aware of lung cancer’s second leading cause — and the disease’s No. 1 cause in non smokers — radon.

Radon is a radioactive element naturally occurring in the Earth’s crust. Deposits in the soil dissipate harmlessly into the environment, unless they become trapped in a home or workplace. Inadequate ventilation can lead to dangerous levels of radon in basements or the lowest floor of a building.

New Video Urges Physicians to Learn About, Relay Radon Risks

New Video Urges Physicians to Learn About, Relay Radon Risks

The University of Iowa College of Public Health and the Iowa Cancer Consortium (ICC) today announced the release of a new video intended to educate physicians on the dangers of radon and the link between the radioactive gas and lung cancer.

The video, Breathing Easier, is available at www.breathingeasier.info and asks physicians the simple question: “Do you know about radon?” Radon is the leading environmental cause of cancer mortality in the United States. It is the number one cause of lung cancer among individuals who have never smoked, the second leading cause of lung cancer overall, and is responsible for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States.