#768:”Freaky” cancer cluster suspected at Sydney hospital
July 18, 2007 12:18pm
Management at Concord Hospital, in Sydney’s west, today revealed it launched a preliminary investigation in May concerning cancer patterns among staff.Five female workers were diagnosed with the disease between 2001 and 2006.Hospital general manager Danny O’Connor said an expert panel had found that the number of cases were small but “higher than would be expected in the limited work area in which the cases have occurred”.”Initial advice from the panel indicates that further investigation is warranted, and today we have provided information to all staff at Concord Hospital advising them of the investigation,” Mr O’Connor said.”We have also asked any staff member who has been diagnosed with breast cancer between 1998 and 2007, and who was working at Concord Hospital at the time of diagnosis, to identify themselves to the hospital.”Mr O’Connor said a second investigation was now underway to determine whether the cases had occurred together by chance, or whether there may be another explanation.
As part of this, the panel would carry out an epidemiological study to compare breast cancer rates among Concord Hospital staff with the rate in NSW generally.
He said they would also complete an environmental assessment of the hospital to determine any other possible factors which could influence the breast cancer rate.
Professor Bruce Armstrong, research director at the Sydney Cancer Centre and a member of the expert panel, said it was not yet clear whether the numbers represented a “cancer cluster”.
“At this stage we have no evidence that staff at Concord Hospital have an increased risk of developing breast cancer as a result of their work environment,” Prof Armstrong said.
“The purpose of this investigation is to determine if there is a higher rate of breast cancer among employees at Concord Hospital than in the general population, and if so, why.”
The men said this phase of the investigation could take some months. In the meantime, staff and the community would be kept advised of developments, they said.
This is one of several reports of possible disease clusters in recent times.
In Brisbane, 15 women working at the ABC’s Toowong studios were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1994 and 2006.
An independent expert panel found this was up to 11 times higher than normal.
This year, the Queensland Government ordered an investigation at a Brisbane high school after nine cases of cancer were reported among present and past teachers.
In May, the University of NSW announced a study into a high incidence of various cancers among staff in one of its faculty buildings.
AND from ABC News:
Cancer rate among Concord staff ‘unusually high’
A leading cancer expert investigating a possible breast cancer cluster
at Sydney’s Concord Hospital says there is an unusually high number of
cases among a small group of women working at the hospital.
Five staff members who work near each other have been diagnosed with the
The hospital says four of the women worked in the nutrition department,
while the fifth woman affected worked nearby at the psychology
Professor Bruce Armstrong has previously investigated the cluster of
breast cancer cases at the ABC’s Toowong site in Brisbane.
Professor Armstrong says a full environmental assessment of the entire
hospital is being carried out, to determine if the cases are more than
“That is a distinct possibility at this stage, that this is just one of
those those freaky things that occurs,” he said.
“That’s why we have to do a proper investigation, and one of the
possible outcomes of that will be that this is probably a chance
“But until we do the investigation, we don’t know that that’s the case.”
Professor Armstrong says there is nothing in their working environment
that immediately stands out as a cause.
“The proper approach to investigating that is to see whether there is an
increased risk in women across the whole of the workforce in the
hospital,” he said.