The Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant is back in the spotlight after a Denver community group’s study identified an unexpectedly large number of cases of thyroid cancer and rare cancers.

John Ingold, from the Denver Post, reported that the survey found thyroid cancer to be the second most common form of cancer reported by those who live or lived in neighborhoods near Rocky Flats.

After the initial findings from the survey, the citizen’s group, Rocky Flats Downwinders, called on the state Health Department to study the increased incidences of thyroid cancer and certain rare cancers the survey identified.

In its active days, the nuclear weapons plant produced plutonium - nuclear triggers for powerful nuclear bombs. It also suffered two fires and multiple storage leakages that caused contamination in the soil on and surrounding the site. Since these incidents, many concerned locals have rallied for the health department to survey the area for effects of the plant and health concerns.

The last time the Health Department studied the rates of cancer near Rocky Flats was in 1998 - which concluded that the area was no more affected by cancer than the metro area. However, the study did not look specifically at thyroid cancer.

Thyroid cancer can be caused by exposure to radiation. But according to Mike Van Dyke, the head of environmental epidemiology at the Health Department, the type of radiation residents may have been exposed to is not usually related to thyroid cancer. This is why the 1998 study did not survey for rates of thyroid cancer.

Carl Spreng, from Colorado’s Health Department, provided a written statement stating that the Health Department would supplement the new study by looking at thyroid and rare cancers.

The Health Department will study the prevalence of thyroid cancer in the Rocky Flats surrounding neighborhoods. If you suspect that you or someone you love may be experiencing symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to schedule an appointment.

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