Study warns climate change may fuel higher rates of cancer

Researchers in California are warning that climate change may bring about more cancer, particularly severe ones like lung cancer. The findings are based on an analysis of almost 60 existing studies, noting that climate change has an impact on public health that is expected to get worse as temperatures rise, wildfires become more common, and air quality decreases.

The new study comes from the University of California – San Francisco, where researchers note that rapid action is necessary to curb the growth of health impacts related to climate change. A variety of factors impact the health issues presented by a changing climate, including changes in rainfall patterns and higher temperatures that aid in the spread of certain diseases like malaria.

Likewise, the researchers note that when it comes to climate change and cancer, the biggest issues are most likely the exposure to air pollution, industrial toxins, disruptions to water and food supplies, and UV radiation. Air pollution is expected to drive an increase in deadly lung cancer, for example, but that likely won't be the only issue.

The study warns that climate change may also introduce 'major disruptions' to the health care systems necessary for controlling cancer, including delaying cancer screenings and straining medical resources that would be necessary to treat the cancers. The research only touches on the issue, however, with the researchers noting that it'll take decades to paint a complete picture of climate change and how it will impact cancer around the world.

The study's co-author Naomi Beyeler, MPH, explained:

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of science and public health, and we have seen over the past months that as a global health community, we are able to mobilize the investments, research, and collective action needed to solve health problems on a global scale. Now is the time to apply this ambition to tackling the climate crisis.