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New Mexico Cancer Concerns Work Group

Most people know of someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. In fact, often in New Mexico more people die from cancer than any other cause. There are many different types of cancer, which are classified as numerous different diseases. A common concern people have is the existence of a potential cancer cluster. The term "cancer cluster" is most often used to describe a greater than expected number of cancers occurring within a group of people, in a geographic area, over a specified period of time (CDC 2003). Most identified cancer excesses are not related to known environmental causes, but instead appear to be due to personal risk factors, genetic causes, normal random variation in cancer occurrence, or unknown factors.
The New Mexico Cancer Concerns Work Group responds to concerns from the public, health professionals, or other concerned people, about cancers among a specified group of people, such as in a community or a workplace. The process involves coordinated and standardized responses from the New Mexico Department of Health and the New Mexico Tumor Registry. These responses are based on an exploration of data available to the work group.

The Cancer Concerns Work Group includes epidemiologists and health promotion staff members from complementary fields such as cancer, environmental health, occupational health, toxicology, and/or occupational medicine. As a multi-agency collaborative, the Cancer Concerns Work Group is comprised of New Mexico Department of Health staff from the Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Bureau's Cancer Section, the Environmental Health Epidemiology Bureau, and Tribal Epidemiology staff from the Community Health Assessment Program, as well as staff from the New Mexico Tumor Registry at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center and Health Sciences Center. The Tumor Registry is part of the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program.
The New Mexico Cancer Concerns Work Group provides coordinated and standardized responses to an inquiry or concern based on an exploration of data available from the New Mexico Tumor Registry. This response typically entails a customized analysis to reveal current incidence rates, stratified by race/ethnicity (if relevant) and trend data if needed. When feasible, the Cancer Concerns Work Group provides educational information about the types of cancers diagnosed that may have occurred within the geographic area of concern (e.g., where the people diagnosed with cancer live). This serves to empower the inquirer by helping him/her gain an understanding of the risk factors (e.g., age, smoking) for the cancer(s) of concern and known common causes (e.g., radon exposure) of the cancer(s).

What We Look For

Simply put, when a cancer concern is presented we look at:

Relevant New Mexico county cancer incidence rates to determine if there are any statistically significant differences. Next, if warranted, we will examine:

What is the geographic areaof concern (i.e., where did the cancer cases occur)? How many people lived and/or worked in the area? What is the time frame of concern? When were the cancers diagnosed?
Are the diagnoses within the time frame of concern the same type(s) of cancer(s)? Are the diagnoses rare cancers? Is the length of residency or employment in the area of concern consistent with the known latency of the cancer(s)? Did the people diagnosed with cancer live or work in the place of concern during the time it takes for the cancer(s) to develop? Within the time frame and geographic area of concern, were there are key known risk factors present for the type(s) of cancer(s) diagnosed (such as lifestyle, genetic, or exposure to occupational and/or environmental carcinogens)?
Having many cancer diagnoses in one community may be causing you some concern. To learn more about inquiry submissions, please call 1-800-303-4503.

Things to consider as you explore this concern:

Are the diagnoses in the population of concern the same type of cancer?
What are the common lifestyles and habits of those diagnosed with the same type of cancer?
When submitting an inquiry to the CCWG it is helpful if you provide the following:

  • The specific geographic area of concern (e.g., county)
  • The type(s) of cancers diagnosed in the geographic area
  • The time frame of the cancer(s) diagnoses
  • Family history of specific cancers within the geographic area's population
  • Lifestyle information such as health habits and occupations of the population
  • Specific carcinogen of concern


The capacity of the Cancer Concerns Work Group is limited to examining the available cancer data from the New Mexico Tumor Registry. By providing information resulting from an initial examination, the work group is able to empower the inquirer to look for clues in a more strategic manner (such as exploring personal risk factors), and encourage the inquirer and community of concern to pursue suitable preventive measures for specific cancers. It is important to note that the Cancer Concerns Work Group realizes that it is possible that a cancer concern inquiry may result in the identification of a true cancer cluster. However, finding a clear environmental cause is difficult. Most identified cancer excesses are not related to known environmental causes, but instead appear to be due to personal risk factors, genetic causes, normal random variation in cancer occurrence, or unknown factors.

Where and how to submit an inquiry:
Inquires may be submitted to nmtr-ccw@salud.unm.edu. To learn more about inquiry submission, please call 1-800-303-4503.
The NM EPHT Web site is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 5 U38EH000949 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Fri, 22 September 2017 12:45:40 from New Mexico EPHT Tracking Public Web site: https://nmtracking.org/ ".

Content updated: Wed, 9 Aug 2017 15:19:32 MDT