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State Zeroes in on Millsboro's Cluster

MILLSBORO -- Ralph Short scoffs at the idea that the Indian River power plant is linked to high rates of lung cancer.

 For the past five decades, he has lived within two miles and "can see the power plant from my front door." Neither he nor his family members have had cancer.

"I was born and raised in Sussex County," said Short, 75. "I'd say the chicken man's got as much to do with it as the power plant."

The power plant is ground zero in the state's cancer cluster study, which began in mid-March and will wrap up in August.

The research is a follow-up to a study released last summer identifying a cluster of cancer cases in six codes around the coal-fired power plant. That study showed the age-adjusted rate of cancer cases in the area is 17 percent higher than the national average, including an increased incidence in lung cancer among older residents.

The current study will map cancer cases according to patients' proximity to the plant.

Researchers want to interview 300 people with lung cancer about their lifestyle, where they've lived, their health history and other factors to get specific information about possible causes. They will also interview 300 people without cancer.

"We're convinced this is a more comprehensive look at whether or not proximity to the Indian River area has anything to do with lung cancer," said Allison Shevock, a state epidemiologist and the study's principal investigator.

Kim Furtado, a naturopathic practitioner in Millsboro, was an early driving force behind the first Indian River cancer study.

"I never had the perception that it was an anomaly or a mistake in the numbers or a random event," she said.

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