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The Daily Tar Heel

McLendon Clinical Laboratories under evaluation for possible pattern of cancer diagnoses


CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed McLendon Clinical Laboratories as located in the the UNC Ambulatory Care Center. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

McLendon Clinical Laboratories' teammates, faculty and students received an email last Thursday alerting them about a possible pattern of cancer diagnoses in people who work, or previously worked, in McLendon Labs inside UNC Hospitals.

“We do not have access to our teammates’ medical records, so our knowledge comes from two individuals who shared that four current teammates and possibly an additional 10-12 former teammates have had a cancer diagnosis sometime in the last 20 years,” the email said.

The laboratories provide diagnostic services in anatomic pathology as well as laboratory medicine. 

Phil Bridges, the executive director of integrated communications for UNC Health, said in an email statement that UNC Hospitals leadership reached out to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to consult the agency’s occupational and environmental epidemiology staff to assess the situation.

When there are increased cancer incidences in workplaces, the analysis often includes collaboration with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health because the situation involves an occupational setting, Kelly Haight Connor, the senior media relations manager for the NCDHHS, said in an email statement. In this case, a Health Hazard Evaluation was also requested from NIOSH.

According to the email sent to McLendon Labs' employees, faculty and students last Thursday, the hospital is working to contact former McLendon Labs teammates to alert them of the situation. NCDHHS began its initial assessment this week, visiting the labs on Wednesday, the email said.

Bridges said that UNC Health is committed to working with the appropriate agencies throughout the process and communicating with teammates and the community.

Stephen Finch, the vice president of operations at UNC Health, said that, at this point, hospital leadership is unsure if there is a correlation between laboratory activity and the cancer diagnoses.

“We are confident that there are probably over a thousand teammates that have worked in the laboratory over the last 20 years in addition to faculty members, residents and fellows who may have also worked in this area,” Finch said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website about unusual patterns of cancer, situations can arise where there are unusual clusters of cancer diagnoses in particular locations. Unusual numbers may reflect occupational exposures, among other potential factors.

"The NCDHHS works with local health departments, community members and other partners to respond to concerns about increased cancer incidence following guidance from CDC,” Haight said. Once the NIOSH begins its health hazard evaluation, the process could take generally from six to 12 months, sometimes longer.

“UNC Health’s mission is to promote the health and well-being of all North Carolinians, including our teammates in UNC Hospitals McLendon Clinical Laboratories and across the state,” Bridges said in an email.


@dailytarheel |

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