Manatee officials investigate possible cancer cluster at Bayshore HS

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The Manatee County Health Department is launching an effort to gather information from Bayshore High School students in an effort to finally determine if the site represents a cancer cluster.

The department is asking alumni to provide information about cancer diagnoses.

Cheryl Jozsa says one will be filled out for her sister, Terri, who died in 1998 of Leukemia at 38.

She was Bayshore HS class of '79.

"I can't look through a yearbook," said Jozsa. "I see victims."

Cheryl has compiled a list of 478 Bayshore alums who have had cancer, immune diseases or birth defects. 105 have died.

"I turn it into a positive energy, to search for answers," she said.

Manatee health officials say many studies have not revealed anything dangerous in the ground or water. 

But now they're asking everyone who has been sick, or certain family members or attorneys, to fill out forms that experts will analyze to definitively say if Bayshore was a cancer cluster. 

Jozsa says the information could help alumni from as far back as 1962 understand what risks they face.

"We want as many people notified so they can inform their physicians so that they can pay very close attention to health screenings."

While she applauds the attempt to collect information, Jozsa is concerned that it relies on self-reporting and that the study is being confined to those who attended the school. 

She'd like those who lived nearby to also be included. Even she has been diagnosed with an auto-immune deficiency. 

She is Bayshore class of '81.

"There was a lot of us," she said. "We had no clue."

She is asking anyone who has filled out a health department form to make a copy for her, so other experts can look at the data.

The deadline to hand in the forms is February 28, while findings are expected to be revealed in six months.

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