QUT scientists find link between climate change and troubling rise in cancer rates

Cases of liver cancer had risen by 184 per cent in recent years and scientists now think climate may be a reason.

Jan 19, 2023, updated Jan 19, 2023
Dr Ting Gan and Professor Wenbio Hu think climate could be linked to liver cancer rates

Dr Ting Gan and Professor Wenbio Hu think climate could be linked to liver cancer rates

Researchers at QUT said the rapid increase in cases between 1982 and 2015 was mainly in Australia’s north, particularly Queensland’s Torres Strait, as well as Nhulumbuy and East Arnhem.

The researchers said that a humidity-loving carcinogenic fungus found in crops could not be discounted as cause.

QUT school of public health and social work’s Professor Wenbio Hu said Hepatitis B and C infections, which were the main drivers of liver cancer, had fallen significantly, which suggested there may be other factors responsible for the increase.

He said lung cancer had similar risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and alcohol use, yet the rates of lung cancer were falling.

“Our team considered the proven risk factors and causes of liver cancer, including the lesser known carcinogenic, aflatoxin, a type of fungus found on crops such as maize, peanuts, rice and soy beans that is more prevalent in tropical countries,” he said.

Hu said aflatoxin could not be ignored as a cause for the increase.

Researcher and PhD candidate Ting Gan said the results of the comparison of the incidence of each cancer in the same region supported the hypothesis that liver cancer was linked to climate.

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“Our analysis showes most of the equatorial regions are overwhelmingly at high risk for liver cancer,” she said.

The three areas cited, the Torres Strait, Nhulumbuy and East Arnhem, had more than twice the risk of other regions.

“The past seven years have been the hottest on record, with the average temperature increase of 1.11 per cent in 2021 compared to the latter half of the 19th century, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

“Although the hazardous effect of climate change on health are increasingly recognised as wide-ranging, the potential for an association with liver cancer has not yet been explored.”


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