We Raise Kids with Lots of Potential (Voltage)?
Johnson County’s childhood cancer crisis: Area’s rate for children much higher than state, national averages
“Last weekend, students at Clark-Pleasant Middle School dressed in yellow in honor of Alaina Day, a 1-year-old Whiteland girl who died in December from cancer that formed in her stomach. The entire Trafalgar community has been wearing orange in support of four boys who are currently struggling with blood or bone cancers.
Friends and family of Center Grove teen Tyler Genneken have had a bone marrow registry drive and fundraising football tournament every year since his death from leukemia in 2009. If it seems like Johnson County has a large number of childhood cancer cases, that’s because it does. In people younger than 20, the county has the 26th-highest incidence rate of cancers in the entire nation. By contrast, it has the 440th-largest population.
But the high number of cancer cases doesn’t point to a cancer cluster or some environmental factor causing the disease, health officials say. Investigations have revealed that while some cancer rates are higher here, others, such as breast, lung and prostate cancer, are lower. Johnson County’s increased cancer in children appears to be more of a tragic quirk of nature, said Amanda Raftery, the cancer epidemiologist for the Indiana State Department of Health.
“Naturally, some are going to be closer to each other than others,” she said. “Things aren’t spread evenly in nature, and there can be small groups that occur just because of the nature of numbers.” For every 100,000 people in Johnson County, 23.6 were under the age of 20 and had been diagnosed with a form of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. That rate is the fourth-highest in Indiana, and well above the state average of 17.6 cases.”
The rate is higher than 99 percent of the counties in the nation.