In a 1989 song, recording artist Joe Jackson passionately sings about how, “everything gives you cancer.” Now, you may be able to add weather to that list.
Cold, dry weather has been linked to an increased incidence of prostate cancer, but no one knew why, perhaps, until now. Researchers writing in BioMed Central’s open access International Journal of Health Geographics suggest that meteorological effects on persistent organic pollutants, such as some pesticides and industrial by-products, may be to blame.
Sophie St-Hilaire worked with a team of researchers from Idaho State University to study the correlation between various weather parameters and the incidence of prostate cancer at the county-level across the United States.
They found that colder weather and low rainfall, were strongly correlated with prostate cancer. Although the researchers can't say exactly why this correlation exists, they found consistent trends with what would be expected given the effects of climate on the deposition, absorption, and degradation of persistent organic pollutants including pesticides.
Nearly one in six men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. Across the northern hemisphere, reported incidences are higher in the northern colder regions than the south. Prostate cancer can affect urinary, bowel and sexual function as well as cause infertility.
Researchers know that some persistent organic pollutants cause cancer and now they believe that cold weather slows their degradation, while also causing them to precipitate towards the ground. Rain and humidity also play important roles in their absorption and degradation.
Prior to St-Hilaire’s study, published in the International Journal of Health Geographics the pervasive wisdom was the higher prostate cancer rates in the north were linked to Vitamin D deficiencies due to low exposure to UV radiation during the winter months. The study suggests weather is a credible hypothesis that warrants further study.
Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.