State health officials said Tuesday there is an association between elevated cancer rates in towns around the Pilgrim nuclear power plant.

However, the officials stopped short of specifically linking emissions from the plant with the increased adult leukemia rates. They also said that the elevated association appears to have ended in 1983.The Public Health Department released a study showing there were 108 cases of adult leukemia in the 22-town area surrounding the 18-year-old reactor between 1978 and 1986.

It said that, although a cause-and-effect relationship could not be established, a possible cause was plant emissions.

Elaine Robinson, a spokeswoman for Boston Edison, which runs the plant, questioned the validity of the study. She said all other U.S. studies of nuclear power plant risks have found no evidence of health threats.

Robinson said officials know how much radiation has been released from the plant and said "there is still not enough radiation emitted to cause even a single cancer."

The study said between 1978 and 1983 those living or working closest to the plant had a leukemia risk four times higher than those who had the lowest potential for exposure.