I have received a stimulating letter from Prof Dr Onur Hamzaoğlu, who is now arrested and held in Sincan F-Type Prison no. 2, Ward A-3-7 on increasing cases of cancer in Dilovası that he has been studying for a long time. The letter is about data included in the news in Cumhuriyet daily, March 24th, published under the captions “Dilovası is dying” and “Plain of Cancer”. In his letter Prof Hamzaoğlu raises his doubts about information included in this news and stresses the need to reconsider data relating co cancer deaths in Dilovası and Kocaeli in 2017.
In Cumhuriyet it was said:
“1) The rate of cancer deaths is 12.5 per cent globally and 12.9 per cent in Turkey 2) it is 18.9 per cent in Kocaeli and 33.7 per cent in Dilovası. It was further stated that the “rate is higher among those who lived in the region for longer than 10 years than others with shorter periods.” The Cumhuriyet used this news as taken from the DHA and cited the source of information as Sait Ağdacı, Head of Kocaeli Branch of the Chamber of Environmental Engineers.
Hamzaoğlu and his colleagues, working on this issue since 2000s, had made public the findings of their study conducted in Dilovası in the period 2004- 2005 in an article published in the journal T. Medical Sciences in 2011. The issue was treated broadly in those years including in articles by some columnists including myself. I recall through a meeting in Bahçeşehir University that I personally attended as a listener that collected data was shared in many meetings held in İstanbul and Kocaeli.
In his letter, Prof Dr Onur Hamzaoğlu says data presented in these news have not been updated: “The mortality rate given as 12.5 per cent by the World Health Organization’s 2004 report, 12.9 per cent given by then the State Institute of Statistics (DİE) as 2005 data, and finally 18.9 per cent given as 2004 figure on the web site of the Health Directorate of Kocaeli are exactly the same with what is presented as 2017 data in the newspaper. Further, 4.4 times higher risk of dying from cancer of those living in Dilovası for at least 10 years, which is one of the findings of our study, does not appear in that news feature. In our times the probability of cancer data to repeat exactly what it was 13-14 years ago is one in a trillion.
Hamzaoğlu goes on saying he is quite curious about the source of data published and his present circumstances do not allow him to find out. What Hamzaoğlu asks from our paper is to go over this data again as a part of obligation to give correct information to the public. Hamzaoğlu also draws attention to the importance of finding updated information and says: “Implying that problems in Dilovası have not changed for the last 10 years in spite of increasing industrialization and worsening environmental conditions, this misleading statement may also have its effects on many on-going court cases.”
I am also convinced about the importance of the issue. I believe that my colleagues in the paper will make necessary investigations not only that a scientist who devoted years to scientific studies for public health and who is in prison now has asked for but also our paper has the responsibility of providing soundest information on such an important issue.