Medical officer: Tittabawassee, Saginaw river residents should get screenings, be healthy to decrease breast cancer risk
 Published: Saturday, April 02, 2011, 11:00 AM Updated: Saturday, April 02, 2011, 10:04 PM By Lindsay Knake | The Saginaw News

A new national report says women living along the Saginaw and Tittabwassee Rivers may be at higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Researchers indicated Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. may hold some of that blame. In recent years, the company acknowledged dioxin released in the Tittabawassee River from the plant in the 1930s to the 1970s.

Kim Singh, Mid Michigan District Health Department health officer in Gratiot, Clinton and Montcalm counties, said finding causes for cancer is difficult and her health department’s own studies have not reached conclusive results.

“There is difficulty in investigating potential disease clusters in the amount of resources needed, scientific limitations and the size of the population,” she said.

To mitigate effects from environmental cancer risks, she said, state and federal agencies should focus on cleaning up pollutants in the long term. Individuals should live healthy lifestyles and avoid behaviors that increase cancer risk such as smoking, obesity and alcoholism, Singh said.

“It’s about getting timely screenings, making sure you have an ongoing relationship with a physician who is aware of your family history,” she said.

Singh said residents can check with local health departments, many of which offer free breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income women, Singh said.

Dr. Harvey Yee, a radiologist at Advanced Diagnostic Imaging in Saginaw Township, screens mammogram results to detect cancer for St. Mary’s of Michigan hospital and Covenant HealthCare. He said he has noted an increased number of women in recent years with the disease. He cautioned that the Saginaw hospitals also care for patients from the northeast Michigan and the Thumb, he said.

One explanation for higher rates of breast cancer is technology and awareness that have improved cancer detection, Yee said.

“We’re catching cancers earlier. That would boost the numbers up,” he said.

For additional articles like this one, go to the Tittabawassee River Watch web site for complete coverage of the Tittabawassee River Dow Chemical dioxin contamination saga. . The Newspaper / Media page of our site contains an extensive archive of media articles dating back to January 2002. The source organization's web site link is listed to the right of the article, visit often for other news in our area. The Newspaper / Media page may be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of the CONTENTS section and clicking on the Newspaper/Media link.