A new review conducted by scientists in the Environment and Lifestyle Epidemiology Branch of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) provides evidence that petroleum industry workers and residents living near petroleum facilities are at an increased risk of developing several different cancer types. The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The results are based on a systematic review and meta-analysis of 41 cohort studies, 14 case–control studies, and two cross-sectional studies. This research adds to the increasing evidence of the health consequences of air pollution from petroleum extraction and refining in workers and residents living near petroleum facilities.
The review identified petroleum industry work as being associated with an increased risk of mesothelioma, skin melanoma, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the prostate and urinary bladder, and a decreased risk of cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, and pancreas. Offshore petroleum work was associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and leukaemia in stratified analysis. Residential proximity to petroleum facilities was associated with an increased risk of childhood leukaemia.
The authors point out that further studies are needed to describe exposure pathways of petroleum and its closest derivatives (e.g. benzene), in order to identify the drivers of the observed modifiers of cancer risk. There is a particular need for targeted studies in under-researched areas of high petroleum production with presumably higher exposures. The most promising way forward may be an international consortium to guide new-generation studies in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, to harmonize study protocols and exposure assessments.
Onyije FM, Hosseini B, Togawa K, Schüz J, Olsson A
Cancer incidence and mortality among petroleum industry workers and residents living in oil producing communities: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Int J Environ Res Public Health, Published online 20 April 2021;