At the request of a concerned resident and the Scituate Health Department, the Community Assessment Unit (CAU) of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), Bureau of Environmental Health Assessment (BEHA), under a Cooperative Agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted an evaluation of cancer incidence in the town of Scituate, Massachusetts. Specifically, the request initiating this investigation included concerns about cancer and the quality of the drinking water in the Third Cliff area of Scituate.
Community concern focused primarily on the incidence of leukemia and cancers of the abdomen, breast, colon, and testes in the Third Cliff area. In response to these concerns, the CAU conducted an evaluation of the incidence of cancers of the breast, kidney, liver, testes, and leukemia by smaller geographic areas in to town of Scituate with particular emphasis on the Third Cliff area. These cancer types were selected in order to address community concern regarding suspected elevations in the incidence of these cancer types and because the scientific literature suggests environmental factors (e.g., exposure to chemicals) may be associated with their development. Although concern was also expressed about the incidence of abdominal cancer and colon cancer, according to available scientific and medical literature, these cancer types are thought to be associated primarily with non-environmental factors such as family history and behavioral factors (e.g., diet). Additionally, current cancer surveillance data indicate that the rates of stomach and colon/rectal cancer in Scituate for the years 1982 to 1997 are approximately equal to what would be expected for both males and females. Therefore, these cancer types were not evaluated in this report. In addition, the CAU contacted the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) and the Town of Scituate Water Department in order to review and obtain available environmental sampling data for the Scituate municipal drinking water supply.