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|June 27, 2002
Legislator Altmann and State Senator Balboni Team Together to Fight Cancer and Save Pets
State Grant to Fund Cancer Study of Companion Pet Population on Long Island
Mineola, NY - Tapping into a virtually unused resource in the fight against cancer, Nassau County Legislator Lisanne Altmann (D-Great Neck) and New York State Senator Michael Balboni (R-Mineola) announced that The College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University would receive a $20,000 grant to conduct a comparative cancer study of the companion pet population on Long Island.
"We have long heard of the elevated rates of cancer among the human population on Long Island, yet there has never been a comprehensive study of Long Island's pet population," said Legislator Altmann. "So as we search for the causes of cancer, and ultimately a cure, it only makes sense to examine our pet population as well."
"The pet registry will afford researchers the opportunity to monitor pet cancer rates and to study the contributing causes of these cancers," said Senator Balboni. "The data yielded from this project could potentially help researchers in identifying specific environmental factors that cause cancers not only in pets, but in the human population as well."
The funding will be used to create a cancer registry that will log incidences of several common forms of cancer in dogs and cats within two geographically distinct regions, one on Long Island and the other near Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. As the system is established, the study would expand to include wider regions, other sites and add additional tumor types.
"The development of cancer in the pet population represents a large, currently untapped resource that could provide substantial power to cancer surveillance," said Dr. Rodney L. Page, director, Department of Clinical Sciences at Cornell University. "Currently, no tumor or cancer registry for companion pets exists in the United States."
Pets make a worthwhile study group because while they reside in the same environment as humans they do not engage in risky lifestyles or behavior, such as smoking or consumption of alcohol, that are known to influence cancer development in their caregivers. Subsequently, the absence of strong carcinogens, such as tobacco, make pets especially valuable in discerning environmental causes of cancer.
A cancer registry of companion animals, which have a shorter latency period than humans, could also identify more quickly potentially contaminated areas that contribute to the development of cancer. Pets also make a desirable study group because it is easier to acquire samples of tissues from pets that may demonstrate a causative association between cancer and the chemicals thought to cause it. The Long Island Neighborhood Network, which is a not-for-profit environmental organization, is enthusiastic about the study. "Pets on Long Island breathe the same air and drink the same water as the human population, so a cancer registry of the pet population will only benefit in the search for links between anomalies in the environment and cancer."
Cancer is the #1 cause of natural death in pets and in 3-5 years it is projected to be the #1 cause of death in humans. In New York State it is estimated that approximately 80,000 humans, 15,000 dogs and 9,000 cats will develop cancer each year.