• State-level changes could help research on cancer cluster in Iredell County

    By: Brittney Johnson

    Updated:

    MOORESVILLE, N.C. - There may be some changes at the state level as researchers investigate the alarming rate of thyroid cancer cases in Iredell County.

    In the video at the top of this web page, anchor Brittney Johnson is asking what the state is doing to protect the community.


    Mother pushes for answers after spike in thyroid cancer across 2 Mooresville ZIP codes

    Thyroid cancer is hitting residents in two local ZIP codes at an alarming rate, and many of those affected are children.

    [RELATED: Expert discusses findings from Huntersville cancer cluster research]

    Channel 9 learned the state had the data but did nothing.

    So, a determined mom and her team of researchers are trying to find what is behind the high rate of thyroid cancer in two Mooresville ZIP codes.

    Local officials told Channel 9 they worry the state isn't doing enough to protect families.

    “People need to know if they’re living in a hot spot,” said Susan Wind, whose 16-year-old daughter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

    Wind is pushing for answers, especially knowing her daughter Taylor is not alone.

    She said she’s received phone calls from other parents who have children with thyroid cancer.

    “They cry and they're scared and it’s horrible,” Wind said. “I think it’s important to address why this is happening here. What is it?”

    Wind found out that children as young as 13 years old have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer in Mooresville alone.

    “I had two 13-year-olds and a couple 15-year-olds come up to me with the scars on their neck, and they were like, ‘We heard about you.’”

    Wind started collecting names, and photos of those scars, where doctors had removed the cancer.

    In April, she organized a 5k that raised $110,000 to research possible environmental causes.

    Researchers visit monthly to test soil and water.

    The 50 participants studied wear bracelets that capture their exposure to certain elements.

    In June, the state confirmed Wind's suspicions.

    Data from the state's central cancer registry found thyroid cancer rates in two ZIP codes started rising in 2007.

    The data shows zip codes 28115 and 28117, counties side-by-side, in Iredell County, had thyroid cancer rates two to three times higher than normal.

    “They did nothing and told me, ‘Well, sometimes it's up to private citizens to bring this to our attention,” Wind said. “The health of the community is our job."

    Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins is among the local officials fed up with what he calls “a lack of direction from the state.”

    “There is no clear leader, no clear answer of whose responsibility it is,” Atkins said. “That’s frustrating and so there are truly some gaps in accountability on whose job is it to do what.”

    Atkins is also concerned the state didn't automatically contact Iredell County about the growing number of thyroid cancer cases, something it does for more common cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

    These cases on thyroid cancer only came to light after Wind spoke out.

    “I think they're not only falling the community, they’re failing the state,” Atkins said.

    Iredell County Commissioner James Mallory said he and his colleagues are working with state lawmakers to address information gaps at the state level, concerned that other communities could also be in the dark about rising cancer rates.

    “People should be assured we are pushing hard, at the local level -- town of Mooresville and the county and our state representatives -- to engage all the responsible state agencies,” Mallory said.

    For now, they all wait on results from the study to learn if there is something making them sick and if there is anything they can do about it.

    "We shouldn't have to live like this,” Wind said.

    The study Wind commissioned has expanded. Researchers from Duke University are collecting data on cancer rates by ZIP code across the state.

    It could be months before the results on potential environmental causes are released.

     

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