Kemri to probe high prevalence of cancer in Meru villages

Friday November 29 2019

Kemri scientists are on a fact-finding mission in two Meru villages over high cancer prevalence. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) is investigating the high prevalence of cancer in Riaki and Kiegoi villages in Igembe South, Meru County.

This follows a report by the Nation last month highlighting the plight of residents in the two areas that are emerging as ‘cancer villages’.

The spot check by the Nation established there were more than 10 people suffering from cancer or who had died of cancer in Riaki.


A team of scientists from Kemri and county officials led by Dr Evans Amukoye, the chief research officer at Kemri, are on a two-day fact-finding mission in Meru.

Speaking after visiting various homesteads and a water source in Riaki village, Dr Amukoye said the fact-finding mission had established a need for research into the causes of cancer in the area.


“We have confirmed that there are many cases of cancer in this village. What we have noted is that there are many cases of tongue cancer. We are concerned that many patients are less than 40 years old. We will come back soon to conduct a research,” he said.

Dr Amukoye said locals had raised concerns over the water they drink, which they suspect was contaminated by meteorite and colonial bombs as well as asbestos roofing materials.

“When we come to do the research, we will study the soil, food and other diseases that are common in these villages. We will also need to do a gene analysis to establish whether the cancers are genetic,” the researcher said.

However, Dr Amukoye said cancers come as a result of being exposed to specific factors.

The Kemri researchers also said they would work with the county government in advancing preventive and diagnostic measures aimed at containing the disease.

The county director in charge of non-communicable diseases said the county government had partnered with Kemri, the National Cancer Institute, Amref and Ampath in a bid to fight cancer.

“We are committed to reducing the cancer burden in the county and this is why we have an oncologist at Meru Referral Hospital. We also established a cancer registry to identify the number of patients and the types of cancers in the county,” Dr Karoki said.

She said the county is also set to establish a cancer institute that will spearhead resource mobilisation and research in efforts to contain the disease.

Also present was Kemri’s head of non-communicable diseases Dr Hellen Meeme and head of Community driven research Dr Esther Matu.

A team of doctors from Kenyatta National Hospital are also conducting cancer screening in the area.