Newswise — Researchers have discovered a potential link between a significant number of cases of a rare blood cancer and environmental contaminants in three counties in eastern Pennsylvania. Ronald Hoffman, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Myeloproliferative Disorders Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, was among the researchers in this study. The study is published in the February 2009 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Dr. Hoffman worked with the Agency for Toxic Substances, Centers for Disease Control and Geisinger/Hazelton Cancer Center on this article.

The blood cancer identified in the Tamaqua area of eastern Pennsylvania is known as polycythemia vera. For this study, Dr. Hoffman and colleagues used a molecular diagnostic test to confirm a large number of patients with polycythemia vera within close proximity to known areas of hazardous waste material. Those sources include waste-coal power plants and US Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites. The incidence of this blood cancer was 4.3 times more likely near hazardous waste material than in the rest of the study area. The possibility of this happening by chance is 1 in 2,000. Other forms of cancer were not found to be more common in this area.

"The role of the environment in the origin of this blood cancer has not been previously documented," said Dr. Hoffman. "This study may prove that diagnosis of this cancer based solely on clinical criteria may be inaccurate. The frequency of this form of bone marrow cancer could be specifically related to the environment."

This study also indicates that environmental pollutants may play an important role in causing bone marrow cancers, suggesting that further research is needed in this area.

About The Mount Sinai Medical CenterThe Mount Sinai Medical Center encompasses The Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The Mount Sinai Hospital is one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. Founded in 1852, Mount Sinai today is a 1,171-bed tertiary-care teaching facility that is internationally acclaimed for excellence in clinical care. Last year, nearly 50,000 people were treated at Mount Sinai as inpatients, and there were nearly 450,000 outpatient visits to the Medical Center.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine is internationally recognized as a leader in groundbreaking clinical and basic-science research, as well as having an innovative approach to medical education. With a faculty of more than 3,400 in 38 clinical and basic science departments and centers, Mount Sinai ranks among the top 20 medical schools in receipt of National Institute of Health (NIH) grants.

Register for reporter access to contact details

Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention (Feb-2009)