Health Dept. responds to NE pancreatic cancer cluster

(WJLA) - A charming neighborhood of vintage homes in Northeast D.C. is in the midst of revitalization. But a string of deaths here dampens the enthusiasm.

"It has been several people who have just died of cancer," says resident Eleanor Farar.

It started about 18 months ago, when one person died of pancreatic cancer – and then another. The X’s indicate the houses where someone has died or is at death’s door from the disease. There are six X’s within just a few blocks.

At first, residents thought it was the water. But D.C. Water said that wasn’t the reason, and referred the residents to the Department of Health. After weeks of requests for a study, the Health Department finally issued a response, which states:

"The number of deaths from cancer of the pancreas...does not cause them to be classified as epidemiological 'hot spots.'

The report cites "nine deaths between 2004 and 2013," but there have been four cases just this year, which means that the study does not take into consideration the most recent deaths – which doesn’t address the problem.

What is also troubling residents here is that this neighborhood has seen several recent cases of other types of cancers as well, notably breast cancer. And while the health department maintains that there is no “hotspot” here, others tend to disagree.

"My mom died and there is no history of cancer in my family ever. My mom is the first one to die of cancer," says Aaron Holloway.