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My Health & Environment - Environmental Public Health Tracking


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There are many causes of cancer, and not all of them are well understood. Cancer is a group of diseases in which abnormal cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is not just one disease but many different diseases, with more than 100 different types. Cancer is one of the most common chronic diseases in United States, second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death.

Diseases such as cancer, in which a long time passes between exposure and disease, make it difficult to determine if an exposure causes the cancer. However, there is an association between certain types of cancers and environmental factors. It is because of this that the CDC has included several types of cancers in their Environmental Public Health Tracking program. See the “Use It.” section below for more information on the specific types of cancer tracked by this program

In 1996 The South Carolina Central Cancer Registry (SCCCR) began population-based data collection from acute care hospitals, pathology labs, freestanding treatment centers, and physician offices across the state, as required by law. Extensive quality control and de-duplication has to take place to assure cancer data are reported correctly.

The South Carolina Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (CPC) works with the SCCCR to partner on projects and obtain data to be used for planning, monitoring and evaluation of cancer prevention and detection activities throughout the state. The goal of the CPC is to reduce the number of cancer cases and cancer deaths among our citizens in South Carolina.

Exposure and Risk

Major risk factors for cancer include tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and over exposure to sunlight (solar radiation). Genetic factors also appear to play a role in some types of cancer. However, the cause or origin of many cancer types is unknown and likely determined by the combined effects of multiple factors.

Although environmental pollution has been a source of great public concern for decades, few community-level environmental exposures have been well-studied. The cancer risks associated with many environmental chemicals have been identified through studies of workers who have had higher occupational exposures to these chemicals than the general public. There is a national effort to standardize cancer data among all states so that there is a better opportunity for future research to identify any associations between cancer(s) and exposure to chemicals in the environment.

About Cancer

Cancer Resouces and Materials

The links below provide more information on each specific type of cancer tracked in this program. (MedlinePlus-National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health page) where you will find information on risk factors, symptoms, prevention, and treatments for that particular type of cancer.

Cancer Clusters

There is often some confusion about how a cancer cluster is defined. In order for a true cancer cluster to exist, the number of cancers occurring must be more than would be expected by chance alone. Additionally, a cancer cluster would more likely involve more rare types of cancer rather than more common cancers like lung, breast, prostate or colon cancers. A cancer cluster would usually occur with excess in one specific type of cancer rather than in several different types of cancer. Along with statistical testing, there are several other criteria that determine whether a true cancer cluster exists.

Cancer Prevention and Control

Early Detection

The number of new cancer cases can be reduced, and many cancer deaths can be prevented by having regular cancer screening tests that can help detect cancer at an early stage, before symptoms appear. When cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat or cure.

It is important to remember that when your doctor suggests a screening test, it does not always mean he or she believes you have cancer. Screening tests are done even when you have no cancer symptoms.

Reducing Risk Factors

Some environmental risk factor exposures can be avoided such as smoking and breathing second hand smoke. Other factors such as a person's age, race, or genetics are predetermined. Having a risk factor does not necessarily mean that cancer will develop and many who get the disease may not have had any known risk factors whatsoever.

Making positive lifestyle choices and taking precautions at home and in the workplace may also help reduce and/or prevent cancer such as:

  • Do not smoke, dip, or chew tobacco, and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits or vegetables
  • Be physically active and maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Protect your skin from the sun. Apply sunscreen, and wear protective clothing such as a hat, long-sleeved shirt and sunglasses
  • Get regularly scheduled cancer screening tests as recommended for Men and Women. Your doctor can recommend when you should begin screening and how often.
  • Discuss other precautions with your doctor to reduce risks of cancer, especially if there is a history of it in your family.

Related Resources

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Cancer Maps

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Cancer Data

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Source: South Carolina Central Cancer Registry PHSIS, DHEC

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For additional information, contact the SC EPHT program:
These web pages are supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 5U38EH000628-02 from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.