Climate, Crops and Skin Cancer

Skin cancer incidence increases linked to climate change

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Our planet is experiencing plenty of climate change these days - as it has been changing for a few billion years - with temperature records smashed and another drought affecting most of the U.S. What's this have to do with our health?

Researchers now have evidence that 'climate change' is associated with increasing cases of skin cancer.

A team of Harvard researchers, led by James G. Anderson, PhD, the Philip S. Weld Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry, has linked ozone depletion with higher incidences of skin cancer.

"Make sunbathing without suntan lotion a thing of the past."

Dr. Anderson said. “What this research does is connect, for the first time, climate change with ozone depletion, and ozone loss is directly tied to increases in skin cancer incidence, because more ultraviolet radiation is penetrating the atmosphere.”

The increase in powerful thunderstorms, brought on by climate change, is stripping the U.S. of its protective layer by turning ozone molecules into oxygen - thus evaporating them, according to the researchers.

The connection between ozone loss and skin cancer incidence has been studied extensively. And skin cancer cases continue to increase.

"There are 1 million new skin cancer cases in the U.S. annually — it’s the most common form of cancer, and it’s one that’s increasing in spite of all the medical research devoted to it,” Dr. Anderson said.

What's particularly troubling is that the increasing UV radiation is also affecting a number of crops - particularly the staples of corn, wheat and soybeans.

Food production in this country is currently being dramatically impacted by the current drought.

Dr. Anderson believes this is more than what he calls a "broad public health issue," it's about "actually being able to step out into the sunlight — it’s about your children and your children’s health," he said.

"Of course, we don’t know how rapidly the frequency and intensity of these storms will increase, so we can’t place a time scale on this problem, but the core issue here is quite straightforward and simple, because we understand this chemistry," Dr. Anderson said.

"If you were to ask me where this fits into the spectrum of things I worry about, right now it’s at the top of the list,” he said.

This study was published in the July 27 issue of Science.

Financials were not available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 2, 2012
Last Updated:
August 4, 2012