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Department of Health reveals what's behind the 'cancer cluster'

Posted at 11:42 PM, Oct 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-22 23:42:05-04

BUFFALO N.Y. (WKBW) — Areas of Erie County have been identified as a 'cancer cluster' and now, the Department of Health has some answers.

The DOH conducted studies of the area to find out why there are higher rates of cancer.

The cluster includes the 14211, 14215 and 14225 zip codes, which is the East Side of Buffalo and West Cheektowaga.

"One possible explanation for the higher rates of cancer were that there are much higher rates of tobacco use among the population of the study area," said Brad Hutton, Deputy Commissioner of Public Health for the New York State Health Department.

The study also found that people may not have access to the care they need.

"So many people are dying from cancer. On my street alone we have lost so many people. Good people. First they were okay and the next minute they were diagnosed with cancer," said Martha McMillan, of Brinkman Ave.

After hearing the results, dozens voiced their concerns saying they believe it's more than just tobacco.

"We live on polluted land. Our water is white, our driveways are cracking, but no one comes and talks to us about anything. We keep saying we need help, but no one will help us," said McMillan.

"If you care, care and come and help. I don't want to hear nothing else about a study. It's sad and it hurts me because I am a cancer survivor," said Gina Davis-Miller, life-long East Side resident.

Hutton says the DOH is working on it.

"They should know that the State DEC and DOH is working really hard to identify existing hazardous waste sites and potential brown field sites that are in need of cleanup," said Hutton.

McMillan says she wants to see more of a focus on the East Side and fears the consequences if that doesn't happen.

"We will die out. If no one helps us, we will die out. The whole East Side is dying," said McMillan.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $675,000 grant to help address the cancer cluster. The money will be used to launch a Cancer Prevention Action project and a group of local leaders will come together to reduce tobacco use in the area.

You can find the full study results here.