Climate change threatens prospects for progress in cancer prevention and control, increasing exposure to risk factors and affecting access to treatment.
According to an article by a team of scientists from the American Cancer Society and Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, progress in the fight against cancer has been achieved through the identification and control of risk factors and access to care. It turns out that these two factors are both impacted by climate change.
Climate change creates favorable conditions for increased production and exposure to carcinogens. Climate change has been linked to an increase in extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and forest fires, which can affect cancer.
Hurricane Harvey, for example, flooded chemical factories, oil refineries and locations that contained large amounts of carcinogens that were launched in the Houston community in the United States. In turn, fires release immense amounts of air pollutants that cause this disease.
Also in 2018, when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, several factories that provided life-saving pockets of liquid intravenous in American hospitals were closed.
Both a hurricane and a forest fire can affect patients' exposure to carcinogens, in addition to threatening the clinical infrastructure dedicated to cancer treatment in the United States. "For cancer patients, the effects of hurricanes on access to healthcare can mean the difference between life and death," wrote the authors.
In the article, published on May 18, scientists propose ways to lessen the impact of climate change on cancer, as climate change mitigation efforts bring health benefits.
The agricultural sector contributes approximately 30% of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Ruminant meat has the greatest environmental impact, while plant-based foods cause the least adverse environmental effects per unit weight, per serving, energy unit or protein.
Thus, the substitution of food of animal origin by food of plant origin, through guidelines provided to patients and changes in the food services provided in treatment facilities, would bring environmental and health benefits.
“Climate change is not a future threat. They are impacting cancer results today and there are things we can do to respond, ”concluded Leticia Nogueira, scientist at the American Cancer Society and author of the report, cited by EurekAlert.
Worldwide, nearly 10 million people will die of cancer later this year, according to experts.