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Frequently Asked Questions



How do I report a suspected cancer cluster or obtain information on cancer statistics or trends for my area?

Contact your local or state health department or state cancer registry. These agencies respond to cancer cluster questions and have the most current local data. Contact your local or state health department through http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/clusters/statelocal.htm. Contact your state cancer registry through http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/cancercontacts/npcr/contacts.asp. For information about public health assessments conducted by ATSDR, search by state at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/hac/pha/index.asp.

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Who responds to inquiries about a suspected cancer cluster?

Local or state health departments, along with cancer registries, respond to cancer cluster questions and have the most current local data. The federal role in cancer cluster response is limited. Sometimes, if needed, states request technical advice from the following federal agencies:

When people contact CDC with concerns about a suspected cancer cluster, CDC provides general information about cancer clusters and refers them to the appropriate local or state health department or cancer registry.

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How are suspected cancer clusters investigated?

State and local health departments respond to cancer cluster reports and inquiries about suspected clusters. A CDC survey revealed that most state health departments’ strategies for cluster response are based on CDC’s “Guidelines for Investigating Clusters of Health Events” with some modifications. Usually, a local or state health department starts by gathering information about the suspected cancer cluster including expected cancer rate, types of cancer, number of cases, and the age, sex, race, address, occupation, and age at diagnosis of the individuals with cancer.

This information is then compared to census data and state cancer registry data to determine if there is a higher than expected number of cases. Many investigations do not proceed beyond evaluation of the gathered information. There are various reasons for not proceeding, but the predominant reason is that a cause is not likely to be found using the best scientific methods available. The decision to proceed to a more intensive investigation varies from state to state. However, in general, it takes into account the likelihood that a cause could be found.

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How do I find out if a suspected cancer cluster is being investigated in my area? How do I find information on an investigation in my area?

Contact your state cancer registry or your local or state health department. Contact your state cancer registry through http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/cancercontacts/npcr/contacts.asp or your local or state health department through http://www.cdc.gov/other.htm#states. For information about public health assessments conducted by ATSDR, search by state at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/hac/pha/index.asp.

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What can I do to reduce my risk of developing cancer?

Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes avoiding tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and sun exposure. Increasing physical activity, maintaining a recommended body weight, eating a healthful and nutritious diet, and taking advantage of cancer screening also will reduce your risk.

For more information about preventing cancer, visit

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