18 Houston ZIPs see rise in lung cancer rates

Studies by Texas Cancer Registry find 18 ZIP codes with results above average
Area sees elevations in lung cancer rates

— reported by the Houston Chronicle


Yet each woman fits into a complex puzzle of cancer data that the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Texas Cancer Registry has been studying for the past 10 years. Each year the database has grown until now epidemiological studies can include 10 years of cancer deaths and eight years of cancer cases.

From September 2001 to the present, the registry has conducted 51 studies in the Houston area, and 18 of those, or 35 percent, identified ZIP codes with cancer rates higher than should be expected when compared with statewide rates.

Of all the types of cancer, lung cancer was by far the most frequently found to be elevated. The registry detected higher rates of lung cancer in 24 ZIP codes — or 77 percent of all the ZIP codes with elevated levels.


Galveston ZIP codes 77550 and 77551 registered the lowest level of increase in lung cancer of all the elevated areas studied by the registry. The Oct. 31, 2005, study found 21 percent, or .21 times, more males with lung cancer than would usually be expected. Data identified 223 cases of lung cancer, whereas 184 would be expected.

The highest lung cancer elevation was detected Sept. 30, 2005, in the Liverpool area of Brazoria County (ZIP code 77577). Both incidence and mortality rates were more than four times what would be expected in females. For instance, fewer than two lung cancer cases should have been found in this low-populated rural area, but nine were counted.


Lung cancer elevations also were detected in multiple ZIP codes in Pasadena (77502, 77503, 77506) and Houston (77049, 77015, 77017, 77044).


I’ve often heard that lung disease is more prevalent in the Houston area than in other major metropolitan cities. In addition, it’s a pretty common thing in Pasadena to assume that skin problems, allergies and other miscellaneous maladies are the fault of the nearby plants (and the air pollution they cause). But this is the first time I’ve seen study results that support our assumptions.

I wanted to be wrong.

Author: Paloma Cruz

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