Thursday January 21 8:07 PM ET

Wood stoves linked to mouth cancer

NEW YORK, Jan 21 (Reuters Health) -- Wood burning stoves appear to increase the risk of cancers of the mouth and throat, a study suggests.

People exposed to the smoke from such stoves have 2 to 3 times the risk of cancers of the mouth and throat, and the wood stoves may be responsible for 30% of all such cancers, according to the study conducted of 2,352 people living in Southern Brazil.

``Cooking and heating stoves are used in more than half the world's households and have been shown in many locations to produce high indoor concentrations of particulates, carbon monoxide and other combustion-related pollutants,'' reported Dr. Eduardo Franco, of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and colleagues in the International Journal of Epidemiology. ``Wood and coal fires generate a number of combustion products which are known, or suspected carcinogenic agents.''

Franco, along with Brazilian colleagues, compared 784 patients with mouth and throat cancers to 1,568 people without cancer.

Of the cancer patients, about 48% had mouth cancer, 27% had pharyngeal cancer and 25% had laryngeal cancer.

After taking into account tobacco and alcohol consumption, which increase the risk of such cancers, particularly when consumed together, the researchers found that the use of a wood stove was still linked to increased cancer risk.

The women in the study appeared to be at greater risk for the cancer, particularly cancer of the larynx.

``This finding is probably related to the fact that women are more exposed to emissions from wood stoves,'' the authors note. ``Analogous results were found in China, where women exposed to emissions from cooking stoves were at higher risk of developing lung cancer than men.''

SOURCE: International Journal of Epidemiology 1998;27:936-940.

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