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Last Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
New figures on spray cancer claim
Norwich city centre
A chemical was sprayed over Norwich in the 1960s
Calls for more studies on oesophageal cancer have come as new figures cast doubt on claims that increased cases in Norwich is due to a secret experiment.

Campaigners, backed by the Norwich Evening News, claim cadmium sprayed on the city during a 1963 test doubled the number of oesophageal cancer cases.

But new figures show that the rates in Norwich for this cancer could be 20% lower than the national rate.

The Evening News said new figures were only a snapshot of a two-year period.

The newspaper said it has been reporting the concerns of local Members of Parliament and health professionals.

Low number of cases

On Friday, Dr Peter Brambleby, director of public health at the Norwich Primary Care Trust, said he had looked at figures for oesophageal cancer - which affects the gullet - in the city between 2000 and 2002.

"I have been prompted by the press interest to acquaint myself with the risks of cadmium and I can't find any link with this cancer.

"My examination of the most up-to-date data for Norwich shows a low incidence and lower than expected incidence of oesophageal cancer," he said.

He said there were 37 cases of this cancer, 5% fewer than the number expected compared to the East of England and 20% less than the number expected compared to England as a whole.

"It is 13th in a table of incidence of cancers and we have other priorities for health," said Dr Brambleby.

Mr Wyn Parry, a consultant at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and a specialist in oesophageal cancer, said more research was needed on this type of cancer.

He is hoping to raise 500,000, with the help of local MP Dr Ian Gibson, for a complete study on this cancer.

'Looking for answers'

"We don't know whether there is any link between cadmium and the number of cancers of the oesophagus," he said.

"I see patients across Norfolk and we would expect to see between 120 and 130 cases (national average) but we are seeing between 170 and 180. Perhaps 50% more than the national population."

Tim Williams, deputy editor of the Evening News, said: "The statistics (released by Dr Brambleby) are in relation to a very small window - between 2000 and 2002.

"And the figures only show Norwich while we are not just talking about Norwich. The cadmium was also dropped a considerable distance from Norwich.

"We have seen a number of cases of this cancer and we are looking for some answers."

The Ministry of Defence said the experiment, which its scientists say was safe, was to "simulate the airborne dissemination" of biological warfare agents in the air.


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