Washington County state reps call for federal study of rare cancer

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    Two Republican lawmakers from southwestern Pennsylvania are calling on the federal government to study a rare form of cancer that has plagued a local school district.

    Reps. Tim O’Neal and Jason Oritaty, both of Washington County, released a memo Friday asking the National Institutes of Health to study the causes of Ewing sarcoma, a cancer that typically only occurs 200 to 250 times a year in the U.S. It was diagnosed in six people from a northern Washington County school system between 2008 and the present, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    Half of the six diagnosed died, the newspaper reported.

    The Pennsylvania cases have sparked environmental concerns, with fingers pointed at everything from natural gas development to a uranium mill tailings’ disposal site.

    In April, the state Department of Health did not recognize the case as a cancer cluster, which is typically linked to a single environmental cause.

    “While the study indicated there were not enough cases to meet the definition a cancer cluster, the study did indicate that the exact cause of Ewing sarcoma remains largely unknown,” the two lawmakers wrote in a memo seeking co-sponsors for a resolution. “Therefore, we are introducing a resolution urging Congress to direct the NIH to further study the causes of Ewing Sarcoma. We believe this is vital for protecting and improving the health of all Pennsylvanians.”

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