Wildfire Survivors Could Face Higher Cancer Risk | Health News

 Wildfire Survivors Could Face Higher Cancer Risk | Health News

By Denise Mann HealthDay Reporter

(Health Day)

MONDAY, May 16, 2022 (HealthDay News)-Wildfires, as is happening today in New Mexico, are known to cause outbreaks of respiratory issues and heart attacks upon their immediate awakening. for people living nearby.

Now, new research in Canada shows that these fires can also increase the risk of lung and brain cancer over time.

People who have lived within about 30 miles of wildfires in the last 10 years are 10% more likely to develop brain cancer and have a 5% higher risk of lung cancer, compared to people. living farther away from these fires.

“We saw a consistent signal for lung and brain cancer risk among people living near fires,” said study author Scott Weichenthal. He is an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill University in Montreal. “We know that a whole lot of carcinogens are released during fires that can increase the risk for these cancers.”

Forest fires often start in the woods, grass or grasslands, and are often caused by unattended camp fires, even lit by discarded cigarette butts, alligators from power lines, or arson.

These fires are likely to occur in the same parts of the country, so people living in these areas may continue to be exposed to pollutants that can cause cancer, the study authors say.

Worse, “wildfires are always happening, covering large parts of the country, and the wildfire season starts earlier,” Weichenthal said. These changes are likely due to global warming and climate change, he believes.

For the study, Weichenthal and his colleagues (including PhD student Jill Korsiak, who led the analysis), tracked 20 years of data on more than 2 million Canadians to find out more. how wildfires impact people’s risk for certain cancers.

The study was not designed to look at specific smoke toxins that may increase cancer risk. “There’s a lot more to know about the kind of pollution that persists after a fire,” Weichenthal said.

It’s not just about outdoor air pollution: “Forest fires also pollute indoor water, soil and air,” he said.

Dr. Mary Prunicki, who reviewed the new study, emphasizes that “we know more about the short-term effects of forest fires than we know about their long-term effects.” He directs air pollution and health research at the Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

In the days and days immediately after a wildfire, there is an increase in hospital visits for asthma attacks, exacerbations of obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung conditions, according to Prunicki.

“There is a strong literature showing an increase in heart attacks, cardiac arrests and strokes in people exposed to fire smoke, especially those with a preexisting condition,” he explained.

Anyone living near the smoke of the fire may have burning eyes, a runny nose, cough and/or difficulty breathing.

Exactly what on the smoke depends on what’s burning, Prunicki said, but “in general, wildfires have a small amount of particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause health problems.

“There are a variety of toxins that may be present in smoke that have been linked independently to the rise in lung cancer, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. [PAHs]”he added.

There are steps you can take to protect your health if you live in a part of the country where wildfires are common. According to Prunicki, this includes understanding your indoor air quality, and if it’s not good, using an air purifier or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your central air conditioning or heating unit. These filters help remove pollutants from the air you breathe.

Also, “if you have underlying heart or lung conditions, make sure you’re also prepared for your medication,” Prunicki says.

It’s also important to reduce the risk of wildfires when you’re enjoying the outdoors, including pouring your campfire with water until it’s cool to make sure it’s gone.

SOURCES: Scott Weichenthal, PhD, associate professor, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Mary Prunicki, MD, PhD, director, air pollution and health research, Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif .; the Lancet Planetary HealthMay 2022

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