Long-term exposure to wildfire smoke increases a person’s risk for developing lung and brain cancer by 5% and 10%, respectively, according to study findings published in Lancet Planetary Health.

Researchers analyzed data from the Canadian Census Health and Environment Cohort of more than 2 million people who had been followed for a median of 20 years for a total of 34 million person-years. They defined exposure to wildfires as living within a 20 km or 50 km radius of a burned area and estimated the correlation with specific cancers associated with wildfire carcinogenic compounds, including lung and brain cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and leukemia.

They found a 4.9% increased risk of lung cancer among those within either radius of a wildfire within the past 10 years and a 10% increased risk of brain tumors but no increased risk for hematologic cancers.

“Further work is needed to develop long-term estimates of wildfire exposures that capture the complex mixture of environmental pollutants released during these events,” the researchers concluded.

The environment has a significant impact on nursing practice, cancer care, and the entire healthcare system. Read the evidence and how you can take action. And learn more about an ONS group that’s taking the issue to policymakers and advocating for real change on the Oncology Nursing Podcast Episode 190: The Environment, Cancer, and Nurses’ Role in Advocating for Climate Change.