AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — Groundbreaking research in the works for 20 years. A local epidemiologist and physician is finding cancer hotspots here in CSRA and beyond across the state of Georgia.
These hotspots look specifically at some of the deadliest cancers: Breast, colon, prostateand lung cancer. ITEAM outlines which local counties are at the highest risk of deadly cancers and what you can do about it.
Dr. Justin Xavier Moore sifted through two decades of cancer death data in every county in Georgia, all 159, and even he was surprised by what he found.
“I didn’t know there would be so many clusters within like CSRA.”
Dr. Moore is an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. He tells ITEAM that his latest research is currently undergoing peer review, but the American Association of Cancer Research has asked him to share his findings this week at their annual meeting.
We asked Dr. Moore if people should be alarmed by the results of his study.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s a hot spot… 20 years. We have data that suggests that the highlighted areas have been continuously and disproportionately affected by these diseases. And something has to be done. »
He does not want his discoveries to scare you, but rather to empower you. And if you live in certain areas, know that your risk is even higher.
Using medical data from 1999 to 2019, he identified cancer hotspots across the state. He found that Burke County is a hotspot for deadly prostate cancer in white and black men and deadly colorectal cancer in black men and women. The county is also rural, has a high poverty rate, and is home to Plant Vogtle.
We asked, “Where do you even begin to know what caused it now that you know, the hotspots are here?” Is it environmental? Is it a diet? Is it family history?
Dr Moore: “The point and why we like this epidemiological research because now we’re highlighting the problem and then to understand the etiology to understand what risk factors are driving it, so that started the research. I hate to say this as science, but it’s like a deeper investigation, right? »
McDuffie and Wilkes counties have proven to be a deadly colorectal cancer hotspot for all adults, regardless of race or gender. McDuffie County has also proven to be a deadly lung cancer hotspot for black adults.
Jefferson and Jenkins counties have been found to be a deadly colorectal cancer hotspot for white men and women. Warren County was a hotspot for many deadly cancers, including breast cancer for all women, lung cancer for black men, and a colorectal cancer hotspot for all adults.
Glascock County is a hotspot for prostate cancer in black men, colorectal cancer in black adults, and lung cancer in adults, both black and white. But it wasn’t just our rural counties that were the problem.
Dr. Moore found Richmond County to be a hotspot for prostate cancer deaths among white men.
“So even though we have the Georgia Cancer Center here and Richmond County, you have people who live in those communities who may not have a relationship with health care providers, and in that area , there is a lot of reluctance to even get care that may be motivated by medical racism, they may be motivated by the fact that health insurance depends on your employment status. And if you really have time to go get treatment.
Dr Moore said medical data was even used to identify a deadly cancer hotspot in Anderson, South Carolina, where Chadwick Boseman grew up. You may remember that before his Black Panther fame, Boseman played the Godfather of Soul and even came to Augusta for the premiere of the movie Get On Up in 2014.
In 2020, the news of his death from early colorectal cancer shocked the world. He was 43 years old.
“Guess which other counties identify as a hotspot for early-onset colorectal cancer? Richmond County. Richmond County was the only county in Georgia to rank as a hotspot for early-onset colorectal cancer and it did. placed in the top 5% in terms of risk of dying from early-onset colorectal cancer for the entire country.
So what now to do with this information? Be proactive rather than reactive.
“A lot of people actually have symptoms,” says Dr. Moore. “And they would kind of dismiss the fact that it’s oh, you know, it’s just me getting older. Yes, we get older, but as you get older the risk of cancer goes up.
Know your risks beyond your postcode: know your family risks, know your lifestyle risks, are you a smoker? Overweight? Are you stressed? If so, push for earlier screenings.
“There are a lot of good treatments, there are a lot of good treatments that the people at this cancer center are working on and that we have access to. But a lot of times we don’t know, we don’t, hey, because I can actually go for a simple prostate exam. And it can save my life. So don’t wait. And so for me, it’s about not waiting until it’s too late. Or think it might not happen to you.
Overall, the study found that Georgia counties with the deadliest cancer outcomes tended to be more rural, have higher poverty rates and a higher percentage of black residents, and a population overall older. Additionally, Dr. Moore encourages us all to make daily changes to reduce our risk, including thirty minutes of exercise, reducing your stress, and eating more vegetables. Every lifestyle change can add up when it comes to your health.
The Georgia Cancer Center website has downloadable infographics to make it easier for you to understand your risk for each cancer, whether you’re in a hotspot or not.
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