DHHS: New Hanover cancer rates higher for testicular, liver cancer; other areas lower


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – Questions about cancer rates have come up during the ongoing investigation into GenX in the Cape Fear River. While no conclusion can be drawn about Genx exposure and cancer rates, the NC Department of Health and Humans Services prepared a summary of where our area compares with the rest of the state.

According to a news release, DHHS examined data from the NC Central Cancer Registry to look at cancer rates in New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick and Bladen Counties.

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The incidence of pancreatic, liver, uterine, testicular and kidney cancers were examined and compiles for the entire 20-year period and separately for each 5-year interval.

DHHS says overall, cancer rates in the four counties were similar to state rates. There were two exceptions where the county rates were higher than the state and four where the incidence rates were lower.


  • New Hanover County had a higher 20-year rate of testicular cancer during 1996–2015 and a higher 5-year rate of liver cancers during 2006–2010 compared with the state. Rates of both cancers were similar to the state rates during the most recent period (2011-2015).


  •  Brunswick County had a lower 20-year rate of pancreatic cancer during 1996–2015; a lower 5  year rate of uterine cancer during 2006–2010; and a lower 5-year rate of pancreatic cancer during 2011–2015 compared with the state.
  •  Bladen County had a lower 20-year rate of kidney cancer during 1996–2015 compared with the state.

DHHS says although the information in this summary describes cancer rates in these counties over time, only a comprehensive research study can provide information about whether a specific exposure might be associated with increased rates of cancer.

DHHS Deputy Secretary for Health Services Mark Benton explained that the results do not point to any consistent trends in counties that get their water from the lower Cape Fear.

“Overall the results are what we would expect to see looking at multiple types of cancer in multiple counties, with some rates below and above the state rate,” said Benton. “Many factors could influence these cancer incidence rates, including prevalence of tobacco and alcohol use, diet and lifestyle choices, and many other possible exposures – none of which are addressed in the cancer registry.”

DHHS has already shared this summary with the four local health department directions. While DHHS is sharing this now with the public, they say the date in the registry does not identify the causes of cancer. Therefore, DHHS says no conclusions can be drawn as to whether GenX or any specific exposures contributed to cancer rates they  examined.

New Hanover County Health Director Phillip Tarte made the following statement regarding the news, “This initial information from DHHS shows that we are not seeing any noticeable or statistically significant trends within the cancer registry for our region compared with the state. There is still more information to be gained through the state and federal investigations as it relates to GenX, but this is valuable data as we work to understand the public health effects,” it reads.

In conclusion, DHHS says the county-specific cancer rates examined here were not significantly higher than state rates, with the exceptions of testicular and liver cancers in New Hanover County during specific periods. During the most recent five-year interval (2011–2015), no county-specific cancer rates examined were significantly
higher than state rates.

Although the information in this summary describes cancer rates in these counties over time, only a comprehensive research study can provide information about whether any specific exposure might be associated with increased rates of cancer.

To view the summary, click here.