Press release:

21st October 2010

Five extra Burnham women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer

Two independent professors agree the random chance is 2 million to one against and slam the cancer authorities for their obstructiveness.

Breast cancer diagnoses are 50 percent above national figures in Burnham north and south electoral wards, according to a follow-up study by Professor Chris Busby of Green Audit .

54 extra cases above average were recorded between 1994 and 2004 as confirmed in a review by an independent expert, Professor Derek Pheby, former Director of the South-Western Regional Cancer Registry and member of the Medical Research Council.

The eleven year study used data obtained following a landmark House of Lords ruling in 2008 that allowed ‘incidence' or 'diagnosis' data to be made available to independent researchers. Previously only ‘mortality' data or death rates were available. Incidence data is more helpful in linking environmental causes to health effects as bigger statistics are involved.

Stop Hinkley applied for the figures which the South West Public Health Observatory had previously kept secret but was subsequently forced to supply under the Freedom of Information Act. We then commissioned Professor Busby to analyse the figures.

Over the eleven year period 1994 to 2004, 113 women would have been expected to contract breast cancer. In fact Chris Busby found 167 women were diagnosed: a rate fifty percent higher than normal. According to Professor Pheby, the random chance of this occurrence in the two electoral wards was one in 2 million. The rate in Burnham south was slightly more raised at 60% higher while in Burnham north it was still 40% higher than the national average.

The alarming figures back up several previous health studies by Professor Busby and three reports by Somerset Health Authority in the 1980's.

The South West Public Health Observatory (SWPHO) has always denied the cancer link to Hinkley Point, suggesting at first that his figures were wrong, then that the excesses were random. In a discussion with Professor Busby, health officials at SWPHO suggested that the whole region's breast cancer rate is actually one quarter higher than the national average, thus reducing some of the claimed Burnham excess. But Chris Busby responded that Office of National Statistics national and regional figures confirm the risk at Burnham relative to the national average (Notes attached).

Support from peer-review

In reviewing the report, Professor Derek Pheby formerly from the University of West of England, criticised the region's health officials, saying: "It is outrageous that the ‘Stop Hinkley' campaign had to invoke the Freedom of Information Act, backed by a judgment in the House of Lords, to obtain incidence data from the South West Cancer Intelligence Service." adding, "I am at a loss to understand for what purpose the SWCIS considers it collects data, unless it is to enable scientific investigation by bona fide researchers of important questions of public concern. It should not be deploying considerable sums of public money in order that the data it collects should disappear into a black hole."

He went on to ponder whether the obstructiveness had a financial motive as the cost of anti-radiation measures might be immense as with his research into radon-linked illness.

On Chris Busby's reputation, which has been repeatedly smeared by the nuclear industry and health officials, Professor Pheby said: " He is a respected scientist of considerable repute, whose views are challenging and who needs to be taken seriously. He, and the Stop Hinkley campaign with whom he has been working, deserve better than to be treated so contemptuously by the SWCIS, particularly in view of the public importance of the issues in which they are engaged."

Professor Pheby states the importance now of a collaboration between the South West Public Health Observatory (formerly the South West Cancer Intelligence Service, SWCIS) and Chris Busby in pin-pointing the location of the cases and discovering which type of breast cancer they each have in order to clarify their link to radiation.  

A 2007 infant mortality study, highlighted on BBC West, found a three-fold excess in estuary wards near Hinkley, including Burnham. Perinatal deaths were shown to be six times the average (1).

Earlier studies from 2000 onwards have shown excesses of breast cancer mortality (2) and incidence. The Parents Concerned About Hinkley (PCAH) study was a doorstep survey to find the actual incidence rates which the authorities refused to give up. It showed a significantly raised breast cancer risk, together with other cancer risks (3).

Three Somerset Health Authority studies in 1983, 85 and 87 showed excess child leukaemia in wards near Hinkley (4). A German government-sponsored study in 2007 found a doubling of leukaemia in children living upto 5 kilometres from all 16 nuclear power stations with an observable effect up to 50 kilometres (5).

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator said: "For years the nuclear industry and health officials have been smearing Professor Busby's work. But luckily he hasn't gone away and is now supported by an eminent professor. With confirmed breast cancer rates like this it would be inhuman to allow Hinkley C to go ahead with its massive outpourings of radio-isotopes. If, as Professor Pheby suggests, the Government secretly accepts the truth of this cancer cluster and refuses to act because it wants nuclear power that would be heartlessly criminal and corrupt."

"Over fifty Burnham families have needlessly lived with this killer disease in the last decade alone. Let's stop the cause of it by snuffing out nuclear power at Hinkley Point."

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator

 

Notes:

Report: Breast cancer incidence in Burnham-on-Sea 1994-2004. Further evidence of effects from radioactive discharges from Hinkley Point nuclear power station" Prof Chris Busby, Ulster University. Open link:

Discussion between Prof Chris Busby and Dr Julia Verne of South West Public Health Observatory: Link

Professor Chris Busby contact: 07989 428833

(1) Study on infant deaths near Hinkley: Link

(2) Breast cancer & proximity to Hinkley Point, 2000: Link

(3) PCAH Citizens Epidemiology: Link

(4) Somerset Health Authority Hinkley leukaemia studies: Link

(5) New Scientist on leukaemia clustering near all 16 German nuclear reactors: Link

Peer Review by Professor Derek Pheby, former Director of the South-Western Regional Cancer Registry and formerly at the University of the West of England

Dear Matthew,

Thank you very much for asking me to review this paper. The first point that I would like to make is that it is outrageous that the ‘Stop Hinkley' campaign had to invoke the Freedom of Information Act, backed by a judgment in the House of Lords, to obtain incidence data from the South West Cancer Intelligence Service.

This is exactly the position I found myself in over osteosarcoma in young people in Helston, where the SWCIS insisted (on the basis of no research) that there were no environmental risk factors operating, and refused absolutely our request for cooperation and for incidence data. In fact we obtained our data by other means, and demonstrated a very strong link between domestic radon and osteosarcoma.

In our case, I wondered if the motivation for this was financial, because the cost of effective anti-radon measures in all houses in high radon areas would be immense, and I wonder whether similar considerations are involved in the Burnham breast cancer situation.

This was certainly not the situation when I was Director of the South-Western Regional Cancer Registry. I took the view that the principal purpose of a cancer registry was to support research into the causes and distribution of cancer, and into the outcomes of interventions, both preventive and therapeutic. For that reason I worked very hard to introduce modern technology into the process, and to improve the quality of the data so as to make it fit for purpose. I had no problem whatsoever releasing incidence data to bona fide researchers, subject of course to their acceptance of our protocol which ensured conformity to the Data Protection Act and protection for the confidentiality of data subjects.

I have not always agreed with Chris Busby in the past. I remember, some years ago, crossing swords with him on ‘You and Yours' about the La Hague reprocessing plant, which was a most interesting discussion. He is, however, a respected scientist of considerable repute, whose views are challenging and who needs to be taken seriously. He, and the Stop Hinkley campaign with whom he has been working, deserve better than to be treated so contemptuously by the SWCIS, particularly in view of the public importance of the issues in which they are engaged.

I am at a loss to understand for what purpose the SWCIS considers it collects data, unless it is to enable scientific investigation by bona fide researchers of important questions of public concern. It should not be deploying considerable sums of public money in order that the data it collects should disappear into a black hole.

Turning to the paper itself, I have repeated Professor Busby's calculations, and come to a very similar conclusion. Taking both Burnham wards together, over the whole study period, I calculated a chi-squared value for the association between incidence of breast cancer and residence in Burnham, in comparison with England and Wales as a whole. The figure I calculated was 25.526. In other words, the increased incidence of breast cancer in Burnham was very unlikely to have arisen by chance. The probability of this being so was 0.00000044, i.e. the odds against this association arising by chance were more than two million to one.

What we cannot know from the data made available is what this means, and how it has arisen. We need to know, for example, the precise distribution of the cases within Burnham, which would enable us to model with some degree of accuracy levels of exposure to environmental hazards that may be causal factors in the development of these cancers. We also need to know more detail of the nature of these cancers, because breast cancer is not a single disease, but there are several different sorts, with different risk factors involved in each.

All this makes the attitude of the SWCIS all the more incomprehensible. I can understand that they would have difficulty releasing data with all the detail outlined above which is necessary for a comprehensive study of the issue, because such detail could make individual data subjects identifiable to third parties, which could compromise their entitlement to confidentiality. There is all the more reason, therefore, why in such cases, both in Burnham and in the instance I previously cited at Helston in which I was involved, they should be undertaking the research themselves, in collaboration with independent investigators such as Professor Busby and myself. They should not be dismissing out of hand the conclusions of respected scientists, while behaving as proprietors of the cancer registry database, and treating it as their own private fiefdom. Rather, they should see themselves as custodians of what should be an immensely valuable public asset, which should be used in ways that contribute to the public good.

I hope very much that the SWCIS can be persuaded to see the light, and start cooperating with other investigators over matters of serious public concern such as this. I am afraid, though, as I found when I was Director of the cancer registry, you get no medals for being off-message, and the culture of concealment is probably now so deeply ingrained as to be very difficult to change.

With best wishes,

Derek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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