It is now possible for New Yorkers, using an interactive map posted Monday, to find out how many cancer cases and what the state labels as "environmental facilities" are in their neighborhood.
Using 2003-2007 data from the New York State Cancer Registry and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the map - which may be the first of its kind - lists the number of cases of the 23 most common cancers within a census block, the smallest area measured by the U.S. Census.
It also marks any of 15 environmental facilities, from chemical and oil storage areas to Super-fund sites to hazardous waste management facilities, in the area.
The state Department of Health cautioned people not to draw conclusions about a potential relationship between cancer counts and 15 different types of environmental facilities, which include sites where contamination is being cleaned up.
"The map doesn't indicate known risk factors" for cancer, said health department spokeswoman Diane Mathis. Age, family history and lifestyle - such as whether a person smokes - are known risk factors.
Nor, the health department said, does it give information about whether chemicals are released from the facilities that could be potentially harmful.
But Assemb. Richard Brodsky (D-Greenburgh), who was one of the sponsors of the law passed two years ago that mandated the map, said that despite the many caveats the map would be useful.
"It's the truth, and the truth is never a bad thing. For many communities it will calm fears and for many communities, it may raise some questions," he said.
Geri Barish, president of 1 in 9: The Long Island Breast Cancer Coalition, said she worried that the map could be "opening up a big can of worms" because the causes of cancer are so complicated. "If they are going to give you definite information - like if you lived at this particular site you developed that cancer - that is one thing," she said. "But if they can't, boy, are they leaving you with a lot of 'what ifs.' "
The map can be found online at nyhealth.gov/environmental-facilities-and-cancer-mapping.
The cancer counts reflect people's addresses at the time of their diagnosis. Cancers can take many years to develop. If people lived elsewhere before their diagnosis, exposures at another address could have contributed to their cancer, according to the health department.
NEW VIEW ON CANCER
New York State launched its environmental facility and cancer map Monday. The site allows the public to check on the number of cancer cases by Census block as well as the number of "environmental facilities," including solid waste, chemical storage, hazardous waste generators and other such sites.
A ZIP code or address identifies the census block.
SITES OF INTEREST
A drop-down box shows nearby environmental facilities.
Another drop-down box shows how many cancers occurred in that census block from 2003-2007.
Access the map at nyhealth.gov/environmental-facilities-and-cancer-mapping
Then scroll down to "View the Map."