Living in high temperature geothermal areas in Iceland has been linked to higher incidences of cancer, according to a new study by the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Iceland, published on the website of the journal Environmental Health earlier this month.
Archive photo of geothermal borehole in Southwest Iceland by Páll Stefánsson.
Residents of geothermal areas are exposed to geothermal emissions and water containing hydrogen sulphide and radon, the article states.
The study’s authors, Aðalbjörg Kristbjörnsdóttir, graduate student in public health, and Vilhjálmur Rafnsson, M.D., compared the population of a high-temperature geothermal area with those of a cold, non-geothermal area using a cohort originating from the 1981 National Census and found that the risk was higher in the high-temperature area.
The follow-up from 1981 to 2010 was based on linkages by personal identifier with nation-wide death and cancer registries.
Aðalbjörg and Vilhjálmur emphasize that more information on chemical and physical exposures are needed in order to draw firm conclusions.
In light of the significant excess risk of breast cancer and basal cell carcinoma of the skin, as well as suggested risk of other radiation-sensitive cancers, the authors call for measurement of content of the gas emissions and hot water.