Studies Show Alarming Rise in Cancer Rates in Rural Coal Mining Areas

According to a recent study featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Owsley County, Kentucky had one of the highest percentage increases of cancer mortality per capita in the U.S. since 1980. Specifically, deaths increased by close to 50% there.  

Additional research has supported the contention that, while the incidence of cancer has been on the decline in general, in rural Appalachia, the cancer mortality rate is significantly higher than it is for people living in urban areas in the rest of the country. In addition, people in rural Appalachia are more likely to die within three to five years of their diagnoses. This ultimately begs the question of whether this could have implications for all rural areas across the country.

What Explains This Phenomenon?

While the Appalachian region technically covers 13 states, the cancer clusters have been found to be concentrated in southwestern Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and southern West Virginia. While researchers have indicated that, on the surface, it may appear that the cause is lifestyle-related, there are also environmental and other factors, i.e. layers of risk that cause people to die early from cancer.

The most common cancers with highest incidence and mortality rate in these areas are lung, colorectal, cervical, and breast cancer. Now, while smoking and obesity are unquestionably contributing factors, pollution from strip mining and underground coal mining are risk factors that have not yet been studied enough. In Owsley County, in particular, there is still funding for small-scale coal production, and in addition, there are still mines operating in nearby Counties where residents travel every day to work, such as Breathitt, Harlan, and Pike. These three counties have also turned up as hot spots for cancer.

Coal Mines Near You Could Be Dangerous

Ultimately, research overwhelmingly indicates that mortality rates and chronic illnesses are higher in coal-producing counties, especially those with surface mining. To that end, it is important to note where active coal mines may be located close to you, including in areas of Louisiana.  

Cancer and Environmental Hazard Attorneys Here to Help

When one particular population group experiences a significant percentage of the overall incidence of cancer, this is an indication that there is a specific cause for the immense physical and emotional devastation that accompanies a cancer diagnosis.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, it is crucial to try and find out what caused the illness. The cancer and environmental hazard attorneys at Harrell & Nowak can work with you to pinpoint who is responsible and help you get the compensation you need in order to deal with all of the many costs associated with cancer. Contact us today for a free consultation.