Liver cancer rates are surging in Australia – and climate change could be to blame

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Australia’s surging rate of liver cancer – up 306 per cent since 1982 – could be partly driven by climate change spurring the growth of dangerous fungi, Queensland researchers have found.

earlier this year that aflatoxin could explain the much higher risk levels for liver cancer in Australia’s warm, humid north compared with cooler regions.

“As you get warming, as you get higher humidity, the peanut mould that produces the aflatoxin is going to be more abundant. No question. And aflatoxin is really bad news,” said Professor George Yeoh, who heads a liver cancer research lab at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and was not involved in the research. “They have a point.”

What makes the liver cancer story particularly striking is that it is an outlier. Rates of other cancers are growing slowly orAnd the growth comes in the face of serious efforts to stamp it out. A vaccine for hepatitis B, one of the major causes of liver cancer, wasThat’s what drew the interest of QUT Professor Wenbiao Hu and his team.To isolate potential causes, the team compared the incidence of liver and lung cancer.

“Aflatoxin-producing fungi are abundant in hot and humid regions, especially northern Australia. And we find liver cancer risk is higher in northern Australia,” said co-author Ting Gan.mould and often found in peanut and corn crops, causes mutations in liver cells, leading to cancer, Yeoh said.

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