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NAPLES, Italy — Rates of cancers related to some contaminants in the Naples area are similar to those rates in the U.S., according to a recent Navy study conducted as part of its ongoing health evaluation.

A review of medical records from more than 16,000 servicemembers and their families living in the Naples area from January 1997 to May 2009 identified nine cases of non-melanoma skin cancer, less than five cases of melanoma — the most serious form of skin cancer — and less than five cases of acute myelogenous leukemia, a fast-growing blood cancer.

Actual numbers of the latter two types of cancer were not released because they are too low to be statistically significant, officials said.

The three forms of cancer cited by the study are associated with chemical contaminants found during the Navy’s public health evaluation, including benzene, arsenic, formaldehyde and tetrachloroethane, or PCE.

PCE, a volatile organic compound in chemical cleaning solvents, was detected in tap water samples in several homes, forcing the relocation of 38 of families in the past year, according to Navy officials.

"Based on the study results, the risk of cancer observed to date is within normal limits," Chris Rennix, head of the EpiData center at the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center in Portsmouth, Va., said in an e-mail.

Researchers compared rates in the study group to what they found in medical journals and concluded the frequency of non-melanoma skin cancer was less. The number of cases of the other two forms of cancer were too small for comparison.

The cancer study, released last week, was the last of three epidemiological studies completed as part of a Navy-led health assessment to determine if living in Naples was dangerous to one’s health. The other studies, also based on records reviews, focused on birth defects and asthma.

The Navy began the health evaluation in early 2008 after continuing concerns over decades of illegal dumping of toxic waste, limited and sporadic trash collection, inadequate disposal facilities and burning piles of garbage throughout Naples neighborhoods.

The evaluation is in its second phase, with air, water and soil sampling almost complete, according to spokesman Cmdr. Jeff McAtee, who said results should be released this spring once the data is analyzed and validated.


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