A panel of scientists is recommending more research needs to be done in areas with elevated rates of thyroid cancer in North Carolina. They want health officials to investigate potential links between exposure to coal ash and what they're calling "cancer clusters" in the state.

This is a part of a larger set of recommendations the panel created for state leaders and stakeholders to help identify any environmental, genetic or other potential risk factors.

Thyroid cancer rates have been increasing statewide as well as nationally. The group of experts began its research after several residents near Lake Norman in Iredell County voiced concerns about thyroid cancer occurrences in their community. Many of the reported cases were teenage girls.

“So even our analysis confirmed that Mooresville, in particular, did have a statistically significant elevated rate of thyroid cancer in the area,” says Heather Stapleton, a professor at Duke University and a member of the panel.

She adds, “We also detected what appears to be another cluster of thyroid cancer in and around Wilmington, North Carolina as well that was actually more intense and more sustained over time, which is something we are also interested in following up on. ”

Scientists used an alternative method to analyze data from North Carolina's Central Cancer Registry and other sources. Stapleton says she's pushing for more funding and research between neighboring states to gather data about thyroid cancer.

You can follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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