Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, June 12 newspaper on Page A1.

McARTHUR — An Ohio University professor is helping to investigate the high rates of cancer reported in Vinton County, and whether the county has evidence of “cancer clusters.”

A McArthur-based group has been researching the subject in recent years. Now, with the professor’s help, an official survey will be distributed throughout Vinton County to collect data on the subject.

In 2018, the Ohio Department of Health Annual Cancer Report found that Vinton County has the highest age-adjusted cancer incidence rate in the entire state.

Members of the Vinton County Cancer Research group recently underwent training to become certified researchers through the Collaborative Institutive Training Initiative program. Three leading organizers of the group are Randy Yates, Kim McManis and Barb Prater, though the team has many other volunteers and supporters.

Melissa Thomas, an assistant professor of family medicine at OU’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens, will be the primary investigator of the project.

The Vinton County Cancer Research group advises those who took its original survey, dispersed by mail and through Facebook, also take the new survey.

Results from the previous survey, although helpful when it comes to understanding the prevalence of certain cancers in the area, cannot be published in a scientific journal.

The new survey will be available at the Vinton County courthouse, Herbert Wescoat Memorial Library and the Vinton County Health Department. An online survey will also be available in the near future.

The National Cancer Institute defines cancer clusters as the “occurrence of a greater than expected number of cancer cases among a group of people in a defined geographic area over a specific time period.”

The Vinton County Cancer Research group meets on the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the McArthur Fire Station, located right next to The Well church.

The research team is also in the process of starting a support group for those who have been affected by cancer. Its next support group meeting is slated for Monday, June 24 at 6 p.m.

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Sydney Dawes is a staff journalist for The Vinton-Jackson Courier.; @sydneydawes_95

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