South Carolina Central Cancer Registry
What is a cancer cluster?
A cancer cluster is a group of more cancer cases than normal in a small
area, like a neighborhood, or within a short time period. Cancer
clusters are reported when people learn that an unusual number of
their friends, family, neighbors or co-workers have cancer.
It is normal to know a lot of people with cancer. The American Cancer Society
(ACS) estimates that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will have cancer
in his or her lifetime, and it will affect 2 in 3 families.
At least five types of cancer are very common:
Lung and colon cancer in men and women
Breast and uterine cancer in women
Prostate cancer in men
These five major cancers make up over 70 percent of all the cancer cases
in the United States today. Because these five cancers are so common,
several cases might occur in one place. True cancer clusters might
include these, but they are more likely to involve rarer types of
A true cancer cluster exists when the number of cancer cases that occur
is more than would be expected by chance to occur in a certain location
or time period. This is most often true for rarer cancers, like
bladder or brain cancer. Those people have something in common,
like living in the same neighborhood or working in the same plant,
over a long period of time.
How are community cancer assessments conducted?
In response to a community cancer inquiry, the SCCCR conducts a community
cancer assessment for that community. They determine if the number
of reported cases is above normal. To do this they compare the number
of cancer cases that actually occurred to the number of cancer cases
expected in the area. The SCCCR begins by looking at the zipcode
area of concern. The zipcode area is the smallest area that can
be analyzed. If any unusual excesses exist, those are looked at
in more detail to determine if a "true cancer cluster" exists. However,
about 95 percent of reports are not true clusters. They appear to
be clusters because cancer is so common.
Even a true cluster might not result from one common factor. Chance alone
can sometimes account for higher rates of cancer. DHEC’s cancer
cluster investigators can find out whether a "true cancer cluster"
View the SCCCR's Protocol for Handling Cancer Cluster Investigations (PDF-1,274KB)
View the SCCCR's Cancer Cluster Guideline Summary (PDF - 14KB)
Community Cancer Assessments
The SCCCR conducts approximately 30-40 community cancer assessments each
year. Since the SCCCR began investigating community cancer inquiries,
only one true cancer cluster has been identified in South Carolina.
Summary reports are available for community cancer assessments conducted
by the SCCCR within the last year. The zipcode-level reports are
listed by county. Find A Report
Centers for Disease Control
National Cancer Institute (PDF-144KB)
Cancer Cluster Factsheets
For Specific Information about Cancer Clusters or to Request
a Community Cancer Assessment:
TOLL FREE IN SC: 1-800-817-4774
Jonathon Savoy, MPH
S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control
S.C. Central Cancer Registry
810 Dutch Square Blvd., Ste. 220
Columbia, SC 29210
Telephone # (803) 731-1419 Ext 117
Fax # (803) 731-1455
If you have any questions or comments about the
information on this page please contact: Jonathon
This page was last updated on June 28th, 2007.