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Photo: Photo: Reykjanesbær Facebook Page.

Southern Peninsula’s High Cancer Rate Under Investigation

The Icelandic Cancer Society has begun investigating whether chlorine-releasing compounds used at the former Naval Station in Keflavík may explain a high incidence of cancer in the southern peninsula, RÚV reports. The Society will also investigate the role of lifestyle-related risk factors.

Nowhere in the country …

Last year, a bipartisan resolution was presented at Parliament empowering the Minister of Health to commission the Icelandic Cancer Society to investigate the high incidence of cancer in Iceland’s southern peninsula.

Clamours for such an investigation had been heard throughout the years – given that nowhere in the country is the incidence of cancer higher than in the southern peninsula: between 2009 and 2018, the incidence was 595 for every 100,000 male residents and 483 for every 100,000 female residents (compared to 539 for men and 478 for women in the capital region).

Results expected at the end of the year

This week, the Icelandic Cancer Society announced that it had begun its investigation, focusing primarily on whether chlorine-releasing compounds employed at the former Naval Station in Keflavík could explain the high incidence of cancer in the region. Other risk factors, such as smoking, alcohol use and obesity, will also be reviewed.

In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Laufey Tryggvadóttir, Director of the Icelandic Cancer Registry at the Icelandic Cancer Society, stated that the authorities possessed “good data” on pollution at the former Naval Station in Keflavík.

“Chlorine-releasing compounds, cleaning materials, used to clean American fighter jets, for example, leaked into water holes in the southern peninsula. The use of these materials was discontinued in 1991. Other variables will also be explored,” Laufey stated, referring to what degree lifestyle-related risk factors, smoking, alcohol use, and maybe obesity, could account for high cancer rates.

The research will be conducted in collaboration with municipal authorities in the southern peninsula, and the aim is to complete the investigation by the end of the year. “We expect to be able to determine how many cases were caused by pollution from the former Naval Station,” Laufey stated.

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