November 12, 2019
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces New Actions to Address Higher Rates of Cancer in Suffolk County Cancer Study Area

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces New Actions to Address...

New Grant Opportunity to Provide up to $675,000 to Support Local Cancer Prevention Award


Local Coalition Tasked with Identifying Interventions to Reduce Tobacco Use and Increase Lung Cancer Screening Among People with a History of Heavy Smoking


State Department of Health Study Found That Tobacco Use - Nearly Double the Statewide Average - is a Likely Contributing Factor to Elevated Lung and Bladder Cancers in the Centereach, Farmingville and Selden area of Suffolk County


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced new actions to address higher rates of cancer in Suffolk County, including in the Centereach, Farmingville and Selden areas. A recent State Department of Health study found tobacco use in this area - nearly double the statewide average - is likely to be a contributor to certain elevated cancers for the area. Based on the results of the study, this plan has a primary focus on identifying smoking cessation resources and increasing the use of lung cancer screening among people at high risk. Screening persons at high risk of lung cancer can improve people's chances of surviving this disease, but it is a technique that remains underutilized.


The Governor has also directed the Department of Health to work with local partners to develop and implement strategies to reduce tobacco use and increase the use of lung cancer screening among the high risk population. The smoking rate in this area is 27 percent compared to 16 percent for all of Suffolk County and 14 percent statewide. Additionally, the initiative includes a Community Cancer Prevention in Action grant opportunity of $225,000 annually for up to three years to support local cancer prevention interventions, for a total of $675,000.


"We're taking aggressive action across the state to tackle cancer and that includes providing local communities the resources they need to assist high risk individuals," Governor Cuomo said. "These new measures will help thousands of smokers kick an addictive and deadly habit and help increase screening rates among the Suffolk County community so more people who need treatment get it sooner."


Community Cancer Prevention in Action is a State Department of Health program that supports local cancer prevention and risk reduction interventions in multiple communities throughout New York State. DOH will work with the Suffolk County Cancer Prevention and Health Promotion Coalition, chaired by Suffolk County Department of Health Services Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken. The coalition includes a broad range of member organizations.


Lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (low-dose CT scan) is recommended for adults who are at high risk for lung cancer based on their age and smoking history. Screening can find lung cancer early, when treatment may be more effective. However, national studies have shown that few people are being screened for lung cancer as recommended. 


The Department will also continue to investigate the increased incidence of leukemia, especially childhood diagnoses. By investigating the most recent cases, we may be able to determine if any risk factors explain the elevation. Department researchers investigated this area on Long Island due to elevated numbers of lung, bladder and thyroid cancers and leukemia. Click here for more detailed information about this study.


New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "At Governor Cuomo's direction, the Department reviewed the health data for the study area with the goal of better connecting people with the appropriate prevention resources. This funding will allow our county partners to augment their current programming and develop additional strategies for reducing tobacco use in these impacted communities."


A meeting with New York State Department of Health officials to discuss the findings and answer questions will be held in Suffolk County this evening, November 12, at 7pm:


Sidney Gelber Auditorium, Student Activities Center

SUNY Stony Brook

100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook NY 11794


In addition to the Suffolk County study area, investigations of elevated cancer incidence were conducted in Staten Island (Richmond County), East Buffalo/Western Cheektowaga (Erie County) and Warren County. The goals of the studies were to further understand factors contributing to higher rates of cancer in certain regions of the state to better inform cancer prevention and screening efforts statewide and promote access to high-quality care. Examining potential trends in these regions aids the Department in determining which cancer prevention interventions to promote and which diagnostic and treatment services would be most beneficial when connecting patients with resources.


By law, all cases of cancer diagnosed or treated in New York are reported by their health care provider to the New York State Cancer Registry. New York's Cancer Registry was established in 1940 as one of the first cancer registries in the country and has since earned many accolades, including being designated by the CDC as a Registry of Excellence and receiving Gold Certification by the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries for its timeliness, completeness and accuracy.


The regional cancer studies were based on data reported to the Cancer Registry and augmented with data from other sources. Demographics and socioeconomic status of an area, behavioral and lifestyle factors such as smoking, and the occupational and industrial history of each area were considered. DOH also consulted with the Department of Environmental Conservation to evaluate sources of data on environmental factors. These evaluations did not identify any widespread unusual environmental exposures that could have accounted for the cancer elevations in any of the areas of study. More information is available here.


Senator John J. Flanagan said, "This funding will help our local organizations increase their effectiveness by raising awareness of the dangers of tobacco use and highlighting the importance of early detection. That educational approach along with providing greater access to screening for those in this area will be very beneficial to residents of all ages. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for his commitment to this issue and to those on the ground for their continued efforts in this collaborative effort."


Assemblymember Steve Englebright said, "In response to higher rates of cancer in Centereach, Selden and Farmingdale, the State Department of Health conducted a study which found tobacco use a likely contributor to certain cancers in the area. Now the focus is on helping residents who smoke with cessation programs and increasing lung cancer among high risk populations to catch disease at an early and potentially treatable stage. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for his action-oriented response to this community cancer cluster."


County Executive Steve Bellone said, "We know that tobacco cessation efforts are critical to helping change behavior and ensuring long term success when it comes to quitting smoking. I want to thank the Governor for his swift action, additional resources, and partnership when it comes to improving the health and safety of communities across Suffolk County."


Suffolk County Legislator William R. Spencer said, "With studies indicating that tobacco use is the likely contributor to the elevated rates on cancers in these Suffolk County communities, we must work with our state partners to leverage all resources to strategically address this troubling public health issue. In Suffolk County we've been focused on providing residents with the tools to quit smoking and implementing policies to prevent youth from becoming addicted to tobacco products in the first place.  We are fortunate to have our seasoned and dedicated Health Educators in our Health Department that will utilize the study to best assist and educate the impacted communities."


Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said, "These cancer findings are a serious point of concern for me and the entire Town Board. Our Youth Bureau has been at the forefront of this issue for many years with programs and seminars aimed at educating our youth and helping people kick the habit. I support the Governor's efforts and will do whatever is necessary to help bring these disturbing numbers way down in our community."

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office