Province releases results of Fort Chipewyan study

The provincial government released an update on March 24 on its investigation of cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan. The initial report came out in 2009.

The Alberta Health Services investigation compared all reported cancer cases diagnosed in Fort Chipewyan between 1992 and 2011 to cancer diagnoses in Conklin Fort Vermilion Fort McMurray and the Northern Lights Health Region specifically and to Alberta as a whole. The study found there were 81 cancer cases in Fort Chipewyan which has a fairly stable population of roughly 1200. It states based on calculations of the average Alberta cancer rate it would have expected 79 cases meaning Fort Chipewyan does not have significantly higher cancer rates.

Concerns over cancer in Fort Chipewyan were first brought to the public’s attention in 2006 when the Northern Alberta community’s doctor told the CBC he suspected a number of his patients might have a normally rare bile duct cancer called cholangiocarcinoma. Residents feared surrounding industrial activity namely from the oilsands pulp mills and uranium mining were causing cancer.

AHS says Canada has not determined the “normal” expected rate for cholangiocarcinoma though it believes the three confirmed cases in Fort Chipewyan since 1992 do not indicate a trend. The most common cancers in the community were lung colon prostate and breast cancer similar to rates in the rest of Alberta.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Talbot presented the report to the media. He says the province will continue to monitor Fort Chipewyan every three years to see if unusual trends in cancer arise.