The Monash University-led Hazelwood Health Study has completed a crucial background analysis of cancers in Latrobe City and surrounding areas in the five-year period prior to the 2014 mine fire.
These results will provide a baseline against which to compare future cancer patterns that occur after the fire.
Monash University researcher Professor Malcolm Sim said the analysis showed a higher rate of mesothelioma in Latrobe City men prior to the mine fire compared to the average for regional and rural Victoria.
“The excess of mesothelioma in men in the Latrobe City is most likely due to past asbestos exposure, as this is the only known cause of mesothelioma found in Australia,” Professor Sim said.
“This may relate to past asbestos exposure in the power industry or other worksites in the region or domestic exposure due to asbestos-containing building materials.”
The Latrobe City area also displayed elevated levels of lung, liver and blood cancer in women and bladder cancer in men.
In contrast, there were no excess levels for any types of cancer in the surrounding regions, including Wellington Shire, Baw Baw, and South Gippsland council areas.
Some of these initial results may be due to chance findings, although this may be ruled out if the findings remain in future cancer data extractions.
However, Professor Sim said without further information on smoking rates, past bushfire smoke exposure and exposure to other possible carcinogens in the region, it was not possible to further investigate the relationship of such exposures to excess occurrences of these types of cancers.
The background analysis was based on cancer data extracted from the Victorian Cancer Registry, comparing cancer incidences for Latrobe City with those from the rest of rural and regional Victoria.
Further extractions will be repeated regularly for the duration of the study to monitor cancer trends following the mine fire, with a major report expected in the ninth year of the study.
Professor Sim said the Hazelwood Health Study was a useful vehicle for providing important results on a wide range of health effects related to other past exposures and health outcomes in the Latrobe Valley.
To view a summary of these findings, visit www.hazelwoodhealthstudy.org.au/study-findings/fact-sheets-and- summaries, or to view the full technical report, visit www.hazelwoodhealthstudy.org.au/study-findings/study- reports
The research is funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.