Cancer rates not higher in Fort Chipewyan, investigation concludes

Fort Chipewyan residents do not have higher rates of cancer or other diseases than people in other parts of the province, according to the Alberta Cancer Board.

Fort Chipewyandoes not have higher rates of cancer or other diseases than other parts of the province,an investigation by the Alberta Cancer Board has concluded.

However, long-time residents of the remote northern community of 1,200remain unconvinced.

"All their data might be incomplete. That's the problem. I think it needs a very intensive study, not just a superficial glance," said John Rigney, who has cancer.

The board launched the investigation after Dr. John O'Connor,the community's physician and medical examiner, said in March he was seeing unusual diseases, including a rare and fatal form of cancer affecting the bile duct.

Elders say they didn't see these kinds of diseases until the oil industry started production near their homes on the southwestern tip of Lake Athabasca.

Theboard's findings were presented Monday to the province's Energy and Utilities Board, whichis currently considering an application by Suncor Energy Inc. to expand its operations in the oil sands, doubling the amount of oil it can produce.

Fort Chipewyan is downstream from those operations.

Dr. Yiqun Chen, the head of disease surveillance at the Alberta Cancer Board who did the initial research in the investigation,told CBC News on Tuesday she did not have "the complete data set for 2005, and less complete for 2004" when she reached her conclusion.

However, a spokesperson for Alberta Health said the department recognized the problem and reached its conclusion after cross-referencing other databases to look for unusual cancer cases.