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Petroleum industry workers at greater risk of cancer – Investigation

A new study conducted by the Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has revealed that people working in the petroleum industry or living near petroleum facilities are at increased risk of developing cancer.

The new review conducted by the IARC scientists provides evidence that petroleum industry workers and people living near petroleum facilities are at increased risk of developing different cancer types.

Accprding to the report of the scientists, increasing evidence of the health consequences of air pollution from petroleum extraction and refining will cause more harm.

Scientists in the Environment and Lifestyle Epidemiology Branch of the agency carried out 41 cohort studies, 14 case–control studies, and two cross-sectional studies to compile their report.

According to the IARC, their findings have been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The scientists reveal that offshore petroleum work was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and leukaemia while living close to petroleum facilities was also associated with an increased risk of childhood leukaemia.

The review identified an increased risk of mesothelioma, skin melanoma, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the prostate and urinary bladder, and conversely, decreased risk of cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, and pancreas.

They, however, pointed out that further studies on the effect of exposure to petroleum and its closest derivatives (e.g. benzene) are needed to identify how they modify cancer risk.

“In particular, there is a need for targeted studies in under-researched areas of high petroleum production with presumably higher exposures”, the scientists said.

The scientists argue that the best way forward may be an international consortium to guide new studies in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, to harmonise how studies are carried out and how exposure is assessed.

In a 2018 study published in science direct titled, “Increased cancers among residents living in the neighborhood of a petrochemical complex: A 12-year retrospective cohort study”, the authors noted that occupational epidemiological studies have shown increased risks of liver cancer, skin cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and lung cancer among employees of petrochemical industries.

The authors observed that the incidence of all cancers increased for adult residents in general, and for the elderly and females specifically, who had lived within a 10 km radius of a petrochemical complex in Taiwan that had operated for 10 years.

“Our study is consistent with a study conducted in Italy, which also reported that residents living near an oil refinery plant had significantly higher standardized incidence rates for all cancers when compared to the reference population.

“Our study, however, found a carcinogenic effect on residents who lived within a broader radius of petrochemical industries compared to previous studies, which have reported a higher risk of cancers in study areas that were mostly within three km of petrochemical plants”, the authors said.

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