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Officials Blame Smoking For High Cancer Rate, Residents Aren’t Convinced

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – New numbers are raising questions about cancer in one Twin Cities suburb.

Last month, state health officials said Fridley had 10 percent more cancer cases than the state average between 2000 and 2009. After a closer look, however, that statistic was lowered to 7.6 percent.

The Minnesota Department of Health says there’s a likely explanation, but some people who live in Fridley say they’re not convinced.

For the last few months, cancer has consumed Jason McCarty’s life. At the moment, 2,600 people follow his Facebook posts on his Fridley Cancer Cluster page.

But Monday’s news of a lower cancer rate hasn’t helped him answer the tough questions.

“To me, reading it seems like a blind statement thrown out there,” he said. “Let’s see some facts.”

Health investigators believe Fridley’s high cancer rate can be blamed on a large number of lung cancer cases. It’s 30 percent higher than expected and 49 percent higher for women alone.

John Soler, of the Minnesota Department of Health, said that studies have ranked Anoka County as having the highest smoking rate in the metro.

“Lung cancer and smoking usually go hand in hand,” Soler said.

After looking into claims that contamination from several superfund sites in Fridley played a part, Soler says drinking water tests are clean and, as of now, there’s no connection.

McCarty, however, isn’t willing to just take Soler’s word.

“Have they looked into it? If they have, where’s the documentation on it?” he questioned.

He wants the Health Department to look back further and talk to people who grew up in Fridley. However, many people who grew up in Fridley no long live there.

Health investigators warn that, no matter how closely they look, there are still only a few answers for a disease that touches the lives of so many Americans.

Solar said he’s seen numbers like those in Fridley before. In fact, he says at least six other Twin Cities suburbs have a cancer rate similar to Fridley’s.

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