MARIETTA - The rate of occurrence for one of two cancers with a "probable link" to the chemical known as C8 exceeds the state average and other counties in the state in Washington County, according to figures from the Ohio Department of Health.
The second cancer type occurs in small enough numbers a rate could not be determined, health department officials said.
According to a study by the C8 Science Panel released last week, there is a probable link between C8 and kidney and testicular cancer, but the panel found no link between the chemical and 19 other types of cancer along with adult onset diabetes.
C8 is the common name given to perfluorooctanoic acid, sometimes called PFOA, a manmade chemical used in manufacturing products including non-stick cookware, protective finishes on carpets and water-resistant clothing. Locally, it's used at the DuPont Washington Works plant.
To determine the link between C8 and the two cancers, the C8 Science Panel interviewed 28,000 residents and 4,000 workers at the DuPont Washington Works plan in Parkersburg from 2009 to 2011 about their medical history. Of the survey, more than 3,600 reported having some form of cancer.
Figures provided by the Ohio Department of Health show that Washington County has a rate of 19.7 cases of kidney and renal cancer per 100,000 residents.
Monroe County has a rate of 16.8 per 100,000 for kidney cancer while Morgan County has a rate of 15.4 and Noble County a rate of 18.8.
The Ohio average for kidney cancer is 15.8 per 100,000.
Franklin County, which has a population roughly 19 times that of Washington County, has an average of 175 cases per year with a rate of 17.2 per 100,000.
West Virginia has an incident rate for kidney cancer of 27.5 per 100,000 for males and 15.5 per 100,000 for females, according to the American Cancer Society. The West Virginia Department of Heath and Human Resources did not return calls seeking more specific numbers on Tuesday.
Though Washington County has an average of only 15 cases of kidney cancer annually, the rate is much higher based on population, health department officials said.
"Cancer in general is going to bounce around. Five cases one year, 10 another year. We try to produce stable rates so we can get a better idea," said Holly Sobotka, chief epidemiologist with the Ohio Department of Health.
DuPont said in a statement Tuesday "a probable link report does not mean that the Science Panel has concluded that PFOA exposure has caused or will cause any human disease among the class members as a whole, including the Washington Works employees or any individual."
Kidney cancer has also been found to be linked to smoking, obesity and workplace exposures, according to the American Cancer Society.
According to the company statement, DuPont has reduced total PFOA emissions by more than 98 percent in its global manufacturing operations since 2000. DuPont plans to stop making and using C8 by 2015.
DuPont has paid more than $20 million to treat water supplies under a class-action settlement in 2005.
Many local residents remain concerned about the presence of C8 in the water, and its associated health risks like kidney and testicular cancer.
Some choose to avoid using the water when they can.
"We drink bottled water," said Jeff Theiss, 34, of Marietta. "We cook with it (tap water), but we boil it."
Melissa Lucas, 41, of Marietta, said her best friend has severe issues with her kidneys, including urinary tract infections. She said she has often wondered if there might be something locally causing the issue.
"It doesn't run in her family or anything like that," Lucas explained.
Testicular cancer, which typically manifests in men as a swelling in one of the testicles, is one of the more treatable types of cancer, noted Dr. Vivek Abhyankar, a doctor of hematology and oncology with Marietta Memorial Hospital's Strecker Cancer Center.
"What's really interesting about testicular cancer is even with widespread disease you still have 80 to 90 percent cure rates, if not higher," Abhyankar said.
Testicular cancer is also one of the least common forms of cancer, according to the health department.
Abhyankar said he has seen only 10 to 12 patients in eight years with the disease.
Figures from the department of health show an average of just two new cases of testicular cancer in Washington County each year. Those numbers drop off to one or less than one in Morgan, Monroe and Noble counties.
Testicular cancer is very common at a young age, even into the teenage years and early 20s, Abhyankar said.
Kidney cancer is a slightly different story, however, he said. If kidney or renal cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs, bone or skin the cure rate drops from 90 percent to roughly 20 percent.
"We still have improving survival, but it's just not consistent," Abhyankar said. "We can't rely that you're going to have 90 percent of people alive at five years. It's quite a bit less."
Kidney cancer symptoms include bleeding in the urine, back pain and possibly swelling in the legs. It can also exhibit no symptoms, and be found on a scan of the abdomen area done for another reason, Abhyankar explained.
The probable link between C8 and kidney and testicular cancer was a result of study by the C8 Science Panel.
A medical panel was formed last week with Dr. Dean Baker with the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, Dr. Melissa McDiarmid, with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Dr. Harold Sox, with the Dartmouth Medical School as the three members.
The C8 Medical Panel will determine the extent of medical monitoring for any disease that the C8 Science Panel determines has a probable link to C8.
Panel members could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Robert Bilott, an attorney for plaintiffs in the C8 case, did not return calls seeking comment on Tuesday.