People Exposed To Wildfires Have Higher Risk Of Lung, Brain Cancer, Says New Study

Research conducted by the McGill University has found higher instances of lung cancer and brain tumors among people who have been exposed to wildfires. Researchers studied over two million Canadians over a time frame of 20 years to arrive at this conclusion. The study is the first of its kind to examine how the exposure to forest fires affects the instances of contracting cancer. The study was published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

Commenting on the research findings, Scott Weichenthal, Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health at McGill University, said, "Wildfires tend to happen in the same locations each year, but we know very little about the long-term health effects of these events. Our study shows that living in close proximity to wildfires may increase the risk of certain cancers."

As per the results of the study, people living within a 50-kilometer of wildfires since the past 10 years had a 10 percent higher incidence of brain tumors and 4.9 percent higher incidence of lung cancer, compared to those living far away.

Researchers said that with the ever-changing climatic conditions, wildfires are expected to become more severe and be around for longer period of time and they are now recognized as a global health problem. "Many of the pollutants emitted by wildfires are known human carcinogens, suggesting that exposure could increase cancer risk in humans," added Jill Korsiak, who was part of the study.

According to the researchers, wild fires usually happen in the same region every year, following which people in the nearby communities might get exposed to carcinogenic wildfire pollutants with serious consequences.

While negatively impacting the air quality, wildfires also affect aquatic, soil, and indoor environments. While some pollutants return to normal levels after the fire stops burning, other chemicals remain in the environment for longer periods of time like heavy metals and hydrocarbons.

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