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ATSDR Identifies 33 Confirmed Cases in PV Investigation

Carbon, Luzerne, Schuylkill County, Hazelton, Pennsylvania

Monday, August 25, 2008


ATSDR Identifies 33 Confirmed Cases in PV Investigation

For Immediate Release: August 25, 2008

ATLANTA - The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) confirmed 33 cases of polycythemia vera (PV) in Carbon, Schuylkill, and Luzerne counties in a community meeting held today. The investigation was designed to count the number of PV cases in the area, verify the diagnosis, and to look for common characteristics among the cases. The investigation was not designed to identify a cause for PV.

PV is a rare illness that causes the body to make too many red blood cells. ATSDR scientists used a recently discovered biomarker, JAK2, to confirm the 33 cases. The confirmed cases shared no common jobs, ancestry, lifestyle choices, or exposures.

Additional key findings from the report include:

  • The state cancer registry does not accurately reflect the number of PV cases in Pennsylvania. Some PV cases listed in the state cancer registry have been reported inaccurately to the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry because the criteria used to diagnose PV have changed with the discovery of the JAK2 mutation. The JAK2 test has only been available to community physicians since 2006. Also, there is incomplete reporting to the registry because currently PV is only reported by hospitals and not all PV patients are hospitalized.
  • In some areas, the PV rates are higher than the rest of the tri-county area. Only one of these areas is statistically significant.
  • Although some of the high risk areas had potential environmental sources in common, this study was not designed to determine if there is any relationship between these sources and the occurrence of PV.

ATSDR and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) are recommending additional research to assess potential risk factors.

ATSDR and PADOH convened a roundtable of experts earlier today in Philadelphia to identify research priorities. PADOH will continue to monitor PV occurrence in the state while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to evaluate state and national registry reporting systems for PV cases.

For more information on the PV investigation, please visit the PV Web site at:

ATSDR, a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, evaluates the human health effects of exposure to hazardous substances.

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