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Sierra Vista

September 17, 2014

Sierra Vista

Sierra Vista, Cochise County, Arizona

Sierra Vista currently has three times the incidence of childhood leukemia expected in a town its size. Out of a total populatio of about 40,000, 12 children have been diagnosed; two have died. After vigorous lobbying by Cochise County and Representative Jim Kolbe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in 2004 that it would collect biological samples in Sierra Vista. The testing has yet to begin, and analysis of the samples will take up to two years. Residents are concerned about this rate of cancer, and wonder whether it might be linked to the fact that the town is home to two military bases. A jet fuel pipeline runs under the town as well. Biomonitoring would help find a common agent, if any, that may be contributing to the cancer among these residents.


Eighteen children associated with Sierra Vista were diagnosed with leukemia between 1995 and 2007, and four have died. This is over three times the expected rate for this small desert town near a military base.

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) led the cluster investigation, in cooperation with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ATSDR, and the Cochise County Health Department.

Dr. Tim Flood of ADHS defined a “case” as a child between the ages of 0 and 14 diagnosed with leukemia while residing in Sierra Vista. The official number of cases for the Sierra Vista cluster was 13, plus 5 cases in children linked to Sierra Vista. Two of the linked cases are families who lived in Sierra Vista for years, but moved and were diagnosed in another community a few weeks later. The third linked child lives in another city but visits Sierra Vista on weekends and holidays to see her father. Dr. Flood chose not to include teenagers because he thinks we are less likely to learn causation because there is a longer latency period, and more “confounding” factors like carcinogenic exposures from working on a car, or from smoking. Case definitions are not standardized in the United States; in the Fallon childhood leukemia cluster, the Nevada public health officials defined a case as a child from 0-19 who resided in Fallon prior to diagnosis. This lack of standardization led to the unfortunate predicament for Annastacia Warneke’s family, who moved from Sierra Vista to Fallon, and were not covered by either case definition.

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From → Biology, Geophysics

  1. shannon henry permalink

    Mum 67 years old long time resident of sierra vista has been living in sierra vista since 1969. She doent smoke or drink. Healthy other than blood pressure. Diagnosed two days before Thanksgiving 2015 with ALL leukemia.

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