Several New Brunswick communities that have a history of industrial activity or environmental contamination have high overall rates of cancer, according to a study by the Conservation Council.

The environmental group's two-year study released Monday analyzed how prevalent particular types of cancer were in 14 communities. The data covered 14 types of cancer from 1989 to 2005.

"In general, this study found that communities that have higher overall rates of cancer such as Dalhousie, the Minto area, Saint John and the Belledune area seem to have more industrial activity and/or potential for environmental contamination than those that have lower rates of cancer such as Caraquet and the Base Gagetown and Drummond-Denmark areas," the study said.

The communities in the study were chosen by looking at previous levels of cancer in the area. The study said one main limitation was that data could not be found for all cancer types in all of the communities examined.

The study compared the incidence of cancer in the 14 communities to the provincial average.

The report said many of the 14 communities examined had cancer levels that were double the provincial norm. In Dalhousie, the rate of ovarian cancer was triple the provincial average for the disease.

The Conservation Council study found that men in Dalhousie had the highest overall occurrence of cancer above the provincial rate. For example, their rate for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was at least double the average. The study indicated that Minto had the highest overall rates of cancer among women.

"The findings of this study raise several questions that strongly suggest the need for more detailed, community-focused epidemiological studies of cancer and other chronic disease rates," the report said.

Ridding communities of pollutants

Inka Milewski, the health watch director for the Conservation Council, said it is important to get the pollutants that cause these cancers out of New Brunswick communities.

NB Power has already announced that the coal-fired generating station in Minto will be shut down and if the proposed sale of NB Power to Hydro-Québec goes through, the oil-burning Dalhousie station will also be shuttered.

However, Milewski said it will take 10 to 15 years before the effects of those closures are felt.

She also said that addressing the problem involves more than shutting down industrial polluters — it also requires stopping new ones from starting up in the province.

"We also know there are development projects being proposed right now for the Belledune area, the massive quarry that's being proposed. This will release more toxics into the environment, in an area that's already under threat," Milewski said.