No evidence of ‘cancer cluster’ found at old Bayshore High School, Manatee County health officials say

Manatee County

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) — A years-long study into whether or not the buildings and grounds of a Bradenton school led to hundreds of alumni being diagnosed with cancer or rare diseases did not find any evidence of a “cancer cluster,” according to Manatee County health officials.

The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County announced Thursday it had received the final report on the Bayshore High School cancer study. The study was launched in 2017 to find out whether or not buildings and grounds at Bayshore High School contributed to a possible cancer cluster over the last 30 years.

The old Bayshore High School in Bradenton was torn down in 1999 but hundreds of people, whether alumni or their family members, had been diagnosed with cancer or other rare diseases.

Loved ones and alumni previously had said they believed contaminated water was to blame. For decades, the school relied on well water. Officials also said fuel tanks were buried underground nearby.

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Manatee County commissioners called for an investigation after meeting with school officials, alumni and their families. County officials told commissioners that numerous soil studies found no contaminants in the ground beneath Bayshore High School. The county health department also said they had not seen physical evidence of any cancer trends but county commissioners stressed they wanted answers.

The Florida Department of Health started investigating and collecting health data in 2017. According to a news release issued Thursday, the department received a total of 239 patient information forms from those who worked at or attended the old Bayshore High School building from Dec.1, 2017, and March 30, 2018. Those forms were then sent to the state health office for review.

“While no documented environmental exposure link could be found for the area of the old Bayshore High School, DOH proceeded to review data from the state cancer registry, the Florida Cancer Data System (FCDS), to address community concerns received by DOH in Manatee County,” the final report reads.

According to health officials, Florida Cancer Data System data from the zip code that includes the old Bayshore High School was reviewed for three different time periods – 1986 to 1995, 1996 to 2005 and 2006 to 2015 – and eight different types of cancer. The types of cancer they reviewed data for were brain and other nervous system, breast, colorectal, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis, leukemia, prostate and thyroid.

“Cancer data from the FCDS and population data from the United States Census were used to calculate a standardized incidence ratio respectively for each cancer type, allowing comparisons between the number of observed cases versus the number of expected cases to determine if the occurrence of these cancer types are higher or lower than one would expect given the population size and demographics of the local area in question,” the report says.

According to the health department, the final report suggests the number of cases versus expected cases for all three time periods was “significantly lower in many instances with regard to each type of cancer.”

“A cancer cluster is defined as a greater-than-expected number of cancer cases that occurs within a group of people in a defined geographic area over a specified period of time,” a spokesperson for the health department said. “When people learn that several friends, family members or neighbors have found out they have cancer, cancer clusters are often suspected. Cancer clusters are also sometimes suspected when people who work at the same place or have other factors in common get cancer.”

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