FREDERICK ——Neighbors of Fort Detrick were not diagnosed with cancer in greater numbers than the broader population of Frederick County during the period for which data are available, state health officials told the community Monday.
But local activists said the state's analysis does not capture the history of cancer around the Army base because it does not take into account cases before 1992, when the state began compiling its cancer registry.
Mitchell, the assistant director for environmental health and food protection, told an audience of about 25 that a separate analysis of cancer cases over time showed no significant clusters.
But he also said that an increase in cancer in the area between 2001 and 2006, while unlikely to be related to environmental exposure, warranted more study.
The findings were similar to those of earlier state analyses, within a one-mile radius of the base over shorter periods of time.
Local activists said the state is looking at the wrong time period.
The army has acknowledged testing Agent Orange and similar defoliants on the base from 1944 to 1968. Activists said they have counted hundreds of diagnoses from before 1992, which they called "the tail end" of the effects of the testing.
"The correct data set might be 20 years earlier," said Jennifer Peppe Hahn. Hahn, who grew up next to the base, said she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma as a child and breast cancer last year.
Mitchell said he agreed with Hahn's premise and "would love" to have data from before 1992.
It was not the first time the state reported no unusual incidence of cancer around Fort Detrick. Nor was it the first time activists took issue with the findings.
Through door-to-door interviews and surveys, the activists say, they have counted hundreds of cases not reported in the registry.
Mitchell expressed gratitude for the list and said it could be useful in other studies. But he said differences between the list compiled by activists and the state registry made it impossible to combine the two for the analysis the state has performed.
County and state officials have studied the incidence of cancer in response to concerns raised by members of the community.