Cancer Cluster Information

Cancer Cluster Concerns in Indiana

The term cancer cluster is used in several ways, with slightly different meanings. The official definition used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute, and other public health institutions is “a greater than expected number of cancer cases that occurs within a group of people in a geographic area over a defined period of time.” Until all of these parameters are met, the group of cancer cases is often referred to as a suspected cancer cluster.

Worries about suspected cancer clusters typically begin when people notice that several relatives, friends, neighbors and/or co-workers have been diagnosed with cancer. While most of the suspected cancer concerns are not considered cancer clusters, when reported, each inquiry is assessed using all the tools available to the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) and investigated through a systematic process as outlined by the Guidelines for the Management of Inquiries Related to Cancer Concerns or Suspected Cancer Clusters in Indiana.

ISDH thoroughly investigates all suspected cancer cluster concerns reported by the public and coordinates internal and external examination with local, state and federal experts from environmental management, academia, medical oncology, and public health (as needed). All investigations proceed in collaboration with the relevant local health department.

Trevor’s Law

On June 22, 2016, Trevor’s Law was enacted. This federal law addresses the investigation of potential cancer clusters by requiring the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop criteria for the designation of cancer clusters, as well as develop, publish, and periodically update guidelines for the investigation of potential cancer clusters. In addition, the law requires that HHS provide assistance to state and local health departments. ISDH’s current guidelines for responding to inquiries related to suspected cancer clusters align with the 2013 guidelines from the CDC and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. These guidelines have not changed since the passage of Trevor’s Law. The ISDH will continue to monitor for new guidance or changes in resources provided by federal partners.

Information for Hoosiers

Additional Resources

Cancer Resources