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More than 100 former students at New Jersey’s Colonia High School have developed a type of brain cancer in recent decades, with contamination from a nearby uranium plant likely to blame.

Al Lupiano, 50, a former student, became suspicious after he, his wife and his sister — who all went to the 1,000-student public school in Woodbridge, New Jersey, just southwest of New York City — were diagnosed with types of brain cancer. 

Brain cancer is rare, detected in about one in 15,000 Americans every year official figures show, causing this trend within one family to raise alarms.

After posting about the diagnosis online, Lupiano said his inbox was flooded with fellow students who went to the Colonia High School up to four decades ago saying they had also been diagnosed with cancer.

Brain cancer types detected include glioblastoma — detected in Lupiano’s sister —, the most deadly form of brain cancer where fewer than half of patients survive beyond a year of being diagnosed. 

President Joe Biden’s son Beau died from this cancer in 2015.

Cases of acoustic neuromas were also found, a benign and slow-growing tumor which the vast majority of patients survive, were detected as well.

Being exposed to high levels of radiation and having a weakened immune system are key risk factors for brain cancers, experts say.

The school is about 11 miles from a former nuclear bomb development site, and fears are now mounting that uranium from the facility may have contaminated water or soil at the school. 

A radioactive rock was also on school grounds for three decades, before being removed in the 1990s after a teacher warned it could be dangerous to kids.

‘Doctors said they had never seen my cancer before it was super rare, or only people that were exposed to nuclear radiation as a child living next to a nuclear power plant that was contaminating their water have this,’ Lupiano said. 

Below is an explanation of the brain cancers detected at the school:

Al Lupiano revealed he had a brain tumor 20 years ago, before his wife (pictured together) had one and so did his sister - who died in February aged just 44

Al Lupiano revealed he had a brain tumor 20 years ago, before his wife (pictured together) had one and so did his sister - who died in February aged just 44

Al Lupiano revealed he had a brain tumor 20 years ago, before his wife (pictured together) had one and so did his sister – who died in February aged just 44 

The victims, who all went to Colonia High School (pictured) in Woodbridge, New Jersey, developed the 'rare' glioblastoma years after studying or working there

The victims, who all went to Colonia High School (pictured) in Woodbridge, New Jersey, developed the 'rare' glioblastoma years after studying or working there

The victims, who all went to Colonia High School (pictured) in Woodbridge, New Jersey, developed the ‘rare’ glioblastoma years after studying or working there

Was radioactive contamination to blame for the brain cancer cases at the school? 

Officials are currently investigating radiation levels at the New Jersey school.

Former students there have been diagnosed with cancers including glioblastoma, the most deadly form of brain cancer.

Main risk factors for this include radiation, and having a poor immune system.

It typically occurs in about one in 30,000 Americans every year.

Ex-student Al Lupiano said he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2002, alongside his wife who also went to the school.

‘Doctors said they had never seen my cancer before it was super rare, or only people that were exposed to nuclear radiation as a child living next to a nuclear power plant that was contaminating their water have this,’ he told NJ Spotlight News.

The school is located about 11 miles from a former facility used in developing nuclear bombs.

It is feared some uranium from the site may have contaminated local water and soil.

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Glioblastoma, or glioblastoma multiforme:

This is the deadliest type of brain cancer. 

It develops when cells supporting nerves in the brain begin to divide uncontrollably.

The fast-growing cells also invade nearby brain tissue, making them hard to remove, but generally do not spread to other areas of the body.

Survival rates are poor, with less than half of patients surviving more than a year after diagnosis. 

About one in 30,000 people have the condition, estimates suggest.

Mr Lupiano’s sister was diagnosed with this cancer at the age of 44, and committed suicide shortly afterwards.

The National Foundation for Cancer Research — which funds research into cancers — says glioblastomas are the ‘most lethal form of brain cancer’. 

What are the symptoms?

Warning signs vary depending on where the cancer is in the brain. They include:

  • Persistent headaches;
  • Double or blurred vision;
  • Vomiting;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Changes in mood and personality;
  • Seizures;
  • Gradual onset of speech problems.

How is it diagnosed?

Brain scans are used to detect the cancer.

Glioblastoma is a stage IV type of brain cancer, meaning it is fast-growing. 

Can it be treated?

Surgery is the main treatment for this brain cancer.

Specialist doctors remove as much of the cancer as possible during the operation. They may suggest patients stay awake during the procedure. 

The above shows a glioblastoma (black area to the right of the brain)

The above shows a glioblastoma (black area to the right of the brain)

The above shows a glioblastoma (black area to the right of the brain)

Radiotherapy using high energy X-rays to destroy the cancerous cells may also be used.

After surgery, some patients are offered chemotherapy for several months. 

What are the survival rates?

About 40 percent of patients survive beyond a year after being diagnosed, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons says.

Just 17 percent of patients survive more than two years after diagnosis.

Experts warn it can lead to death within six months if left untreated.  

Am I at risk? 

This cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men around 64 years old, although it can occur in people of all genders and age groups.

Prior therapeutic radiation and an impaired immune response are also risk factors for the condition. 

Small acoustic neuroma up to tow millimeters in diameter (0.07inch)

Small acoustic neuroma up to tow millimeters in diameter (0.07inch)

Large acoustic neuroma beyond 30millimeters (1.1inch)

Large acoustic neuroma beyond 30millimeters (1.1inch)

Pictured above is a small form of acoustic neuromas (left) up to two millimeters across (0.07inches) and a large form of glioblastoma — beyond 30mm (1.1inch)

Mayor pledges to look into brain cancer cases at New Jersey school 

A mayor has pledged to look into brain cancer cases at a New Jersey high school.

John McCormick said: ‘The only thing that could have happened, potentially, was fill that was brought in during construction. We have no records 55 years ago.’

He continued: ‘There could be a real problem here, and our residents deserve to know if there are any dangers.

‘We’re all concerned, and we all want to get to the bottom of this. This is definitely not normal.

‘We are looking at possible things that we can do between the town and school, and they said they will look at anything we come up with.’

Dr Sumul Raval said: ‘To find something like this … is a significant discovery. Normally speaking, you don’t get radiation in a high school . . . unless something is going on in that area that we don’t know.’

District Superintendent Dr Joseph Massimo added: ‘I’m a lifelong resident here. I raised my family here. So the health and safety of our students is of paramount importance to me.’

The state’s Department of Health, Department of Environmental Protection and the Federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry are also investigating.

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Acoustic neuromas:

This is a slow growing tumor in the brain that does not spread to other areas of the body.

It starts on the nerve responsible for hearing and balance. 

They are rare, accounting for about eight per cent of all brain tumor diagnoses. 

Most patients initially have their tumor monitored to ensure it does not grow. 

But if this happens they will then be offered surgery to remove all or part of it.

The vast majority of patients survive the condition, with only one in 200 cases that went to surgery being fatal. 

Mr Lupiano was diagnosed with this cancer in 2002, at the age of 27, while his wife Michele was also found to have the condition.

What are the symptoms?

The tumor may initially trigger no obvious symptoms, but as it develops it can lead to the following warning signs:

  • Hearing loss, usually only in one ear;
  • Hearing sounds that come from inside the body;
  • Sensation of moving or spinning. 

When the tumor gets larger it can spark these additional symptoms:

  • Persistent headaches;
  • Temporary blurred or double vision;
  • Numbness, pain or weakness on one side of the face;
  • Problems with limb co-ordination on one side of the body;
  • A hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing. 

How is it diagnosed?

Acoustic neuromas are diagnosed using brain scans.

But doctors may also deploy hearing tests to help estimate the size of the tumor and what treatment may be needed.

What are the treatment options?

Whether someone is offered surgery depends on the size of their acoustic neuroma, doctors say. 

Patients with very small growths — up to two millimeters (0.07inches) in diameter —are normally only offered a brain scan every 12 months to keep an eye on the tumor.

But if these progress to medium and large tumors — beyond 30mm (1.1inch) — to grow they will be offered surgery to remove it, and avoid it damaging the brain. 

Radiotherapy may also be offered to kill off the tumor. 

What are the survival rates?

Most people who are diagnosed with acoustic neuromas survive the condition.

Cancer Research UK — which funds research into treatments for these conditions — says patients generally have a ‘good outcome’.

Am I at risk?

This cancer is most commonly recorded in adults around 50 years old, with some estimates suggesting it is twice as common among women.

Exposure to radiation and having a weakened immune system are both considered to be risk factors for the condition. 

Source: DailyMail

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