MDHHS review finds no significant increase in cancers near Viant Medical Facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 24, 2019

CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. – A review of cancer incidences in the community surrounding Viant Medical Facility, Inc. in Grand Rapids by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Division of Environmental Health did not find increased frequency of cancer over a 15-year period. The only exception was in multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, when compared to Kent County rates. However, this was based on 25 cases and was not significantly higher than the overall state rate for this type of cancer.

The review was conducted to determine if there were more cancer cases than expected in the area near Viant after elevated levels of ethylene oxide (EtO) were discovered in January 2017 in the area by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. Science has shown that breathing EtO may be linked to some cancers including breast cancer and some blood cancers: leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma. The facility has been using EtO to sterilize medical equipment at this location for 30 years. 

To conduct the review, MDHHS reviewed the number of cancer cases in a 10-cenus tract area surrounding Viant and compared it to the number of cases expected if the area had the same cancer rates as Kent County and the state. A cancer rate is the number of cancer cases divided by the population.

The review found:

  • Slightly fewer breast cancer cases in the area than expected when compared to both Kent County and the state.
  • Slightly more multiple myeloma cases in the area compared to Kent County, but when compared to the state, there was no significant difference in the number of cases.
  • No significant differences in the number of cases of leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the area compared to either Kent County or the state.

There are limitations to the review that should be noted:

  • Data from the Michigan Central Cancer Registry does not have the information necessary to determine that cancer incidence is related to environmental contamination.
    Given the long period of investigation, it is possible that people relocating to or leaving the area could have affected the findings.
  • Given the low levels of exposure estimated from modeling and the small population of the area, a statistical increase in cancer incidence from EtO would most likely not be detectable. 

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