The results of a recent study published in the International Journal of Cancer indicate that exposure to diesel fuel may increase the risk of ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is a malignancy that arises from various different cells within the ovaries. Ovarian cancer is a malignancy that arises from various different cells within the ovaries. Approximately 25,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. Ovarian cancer has been called the silent killer because it begins deep in the pelvis and often does not cause any symptoms until it has reached advanced stages. As a result, ovarian cancer is often initially diagnosed when it has already reached a stage where it is incurable. The best “treatment” strategy for cancer is to prevent its occurrence or to detect it early when it is most treatable. Ovarian cancer has suboptimal long-term outcomes with standard therapies once it has spread, which has prompted a great deal of research to identify the causes and risk factors for this disease, with the hopes of creating better prevention strategies.
Researchers in Finland recently conducted a study to evaluate the risk of various cancers in workers exposed gasoline and diesel engine exhaust. In the past, diesel and gasoline exhaust have been suspected of causing cancer, but earlier studies are scarce and inconsistent. In the study, Finnish workers who had an occupational exposure to gasoline and diesel fuel exhaust were evaluated between the years of 1971 through 1995 and compared to an unexposed control group. Results of the study indicated that increased exposure to diesel exhaust correlated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Only minimal elevations in the risk of kidney and bladder cancers were found with increased exposure to engine exhausts. Testicular cancer and leukemias were not influenced by increased exposures to gasoline or diesel fuel exhausts.
Researchers conclude that there is a risk relationship between diesel fuel exhaust exposure and ovarian cancer. Although the presence of risk factors may increase the chances of developing ovarian cancer, this does not necessarily mean that women exposed to diesel fuel exhaust will develop the disease. Patients may wish to speak to their physician regarding screening options and their individual risk factors.
Reference: Guo J, Kauppinen T, et al. Risk of esophageal, ovarian, testicular, kidney and bladder cancers and leukemia among Finnish workers exposed to diesel or gasoline engine exhaust. International Journal of Cancer. 2004; 111: 286-292.