Cancer Clusters as a Rhetorical Device

Victor PerezThis week, we interviewed another member of UD’s department of Sociology and Criminal Justice: Assistant Professor Victor Perez. Perez spoke with us about finding ways to merge the social sciences and the physical sciences to gain new insights in the classroom and in the field. We spent most of the time talking about the portrayal of “Cancer Clusters” in the media and the way that identifying certain census tracts as a cancer cluster is really a rhetorical device in the discussion of public health.

We talked about some of the shortcomings in the methods used by some government agencies and press outlets to map some clusters: Is the increase in cancer cases in an area a real cancer cluster, implying an environmental factor, or is it related to an increase in population, an increase in the number of people who smoke(d), or other factors? Are there new incidences of cancer usually linked to environmental issues or just more cases of the more common breast, lung, and colon cancer?

Along the way, Perez talks about the importance of working at and studying the intersection of physical sciences and community involvement and makes it clear how an understanding of statistical methods can inform our reading of news about the environment and public health.

Listen to the interview

Victor Perez, UD department of Sociology and Criminal Justice
27.7 MB

About our guest

Victor Perez joined UD’s faculty as an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice after receiving his PhD at the University of Delaware. He specializes in the sociology of risk, medical sociology, social problems, and survey research. A unifying theme throughout his career is the entwined configuration of health, risk, and society. Currently, his research projects involve a survey of vaccine risk perception, exploring citizen-science alliances dealing with legacy pollution and sea-level rise, and studying how the popular media presents the issue of cancer clusters. He regularly teaches quantitative sociological research methods, social statistics and data analysis, and Honors introduction to sociology. Recently, he became a faculty affiliate of the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) and is starting new lines of research on legacy pollution in impoverished areas, water sustainability, and other environmental justice issues. In Fall 2014, he plans to teach a new Sociology course about the environment and environmental organizations.

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