Cancer incidence among population utilizing geothermal hot water: a census-based cohort study

Int J Cancer. 2013 Dec 15;133(12):2944-52. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28298. Epub 2013 Jun 29.


The aim of the study was to assess whether utilization of geothermal hot-water is associated with risk of cancer. The cohort from census was followed from 1981 to 2010 in nation-wide death and cancer registries. The moving apart of American-Eurasian tectonic plates, observed in Iceland, results in high volcanic activity. The definition of the study populations was based on geological information. The target population was inhabitants of communities located on bedrock younger than 3.3 million years, utilizing hot-water supply generated from geothermal wells since 1972. The two reference populations were inhabitants of communities without this hot-water supply located on areas with less volcanic/geothermal activity, and bedrock older than 3.3 million years. Hazard ratio (HR), and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were adjusted for age, gender, education, housing, reproductive factors and smoking. HR in the geothermal hot-water supply areas for all cancer was 1.15 (95% CI 1.05-1.25) as compared with nongeothermal areas. The HR for breast cancer was 1.40 (1.12-1.75), prostate cancer 1.61 (1.29-2.00), kidney cancer 1.64 (1.11-2.41), lymphatic and haematopoietic tissue cancers 1.45 (1.08-1.95), and for basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the skin 1.46 (1.16-1.82). Positive exposure-response relations were observed between the risk of these cancers and the degree of volcanic/geothermal activity in the reference areas. Increased incidence of all cancers, breast, prostate, kidney cancer and BCC of the skin was found among the population utilizing geothermal hot-water for decades. More precise information on exposure is needed in future studies.

Keywords: basal cell carcinoma of skin; breast cancer; cancer registry; geothermal hot-water; kidney cancer; prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Censuses
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Risk
  • Volcanic Eruptions*