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Report links Carbon County's cancer incidence rates to radiation exposure

On April 12, United States Congressman Jim Matheson released a report that reveals higher rates of radiation-associated cancers in Carbon County and areas in Utah where residents are not eligible for government compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act of 1990.

"Based on this evidence, I suspect there are even more victims out there than we have already acknowledged under the current law," said the U.S. congressman.

Matheson requested that the U.S. House's special investigations division committee on government reform examine new information about cancer rates in Utah.

The information, which was compiled by the National Cancer Institute, includes data on the rates of radiation-associated cancers by county in Utah from 1973 to 2001.

"The report concludes that for the 30-year period the National Cancer Institute has tracked cancer rates, there was an 8 percent higher rate of radiation associated cancers in areas where residents can't be compensated, under RECA, than in those areas where residents are eligible," pointed out Matheson. "This has implications for thousands of cancer victims in 19 Utah counties who by law cannot file a claim."

Under RECA, residents of 10 southwest counties in the state, who suffer from 18 types of radiation associated cancer, are eligible to apply for payments, usually in the amount of $50,000, explained the congressman.

The National Cancer Institute released major reports in 1997 and 2001 finding evidence of radiation exposure across all of Utah, with the distribution of fallout largely unrelated to RECA's borders.

The data show that six Utah counties have cancer incidence rates exceeding the state average, indicated the U.S. congressman. Five of the counties fall outside of RECA's borders.

In addition, the report found that the overall average rate of radiation-associated cancer was 210.5 per 100,000.

Six counties in the state had rates that exceeded this average, five of which are RECA ineligible.

The areas in Utah with the highest rates of radiation associated cancer were Carbon, Tooele, Grand and Salt Lake counties., according to the research report

"At a time when the government is contemplating a return to study, development and testing of new nuclear weapons, we need to get all the information out on the table in terms of health affects from past testing. This report raises concerns that there may be thousands of sick and dying Utahns out there who are the forgotten guinea pigs of past government policies on nuclear testing," said Matheson.

The report's findings are based on cancer rates from 1973 to 2001. It is limited to where people were when the cancer cases documented, concluded the congressman.

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