A link between cold environment and cancer

Tumour Biol. 2015 Aug;36(8):5953-64. doi: 10.1007/s13277-015-3270-0. Epub 2015 Mar 4.


Many risk factors such as smoking and change of life style have been shown to promote genetic and adaptive epigenetic changes responsible for tumorigenesis. This study brings environmental temperature as a cancer causing factor to light. The cancer mortality rate (CMR) of a country was correlated with 17 different variables. Multivariate analysis of a total of 188 countries found that the average annual temperature (AAT) of a country might have a significant contribution to cancer death when compared with other factors such as alcohol and meat consumption. Univariate analysis found a negative correlation between AAT and CMR. All these countries were categorized into three temperature zones (zone I, -2 to 11.5 °C; number of countries, 38; zone II, 11.6 to 18.6 °C; number of countries, 32; and zone III, 18.7 to 30 °C; number of countries, 118). Out of the top-most 50 countries having the highest CMR, 26 (68.42 %), 10 (31.25 %), and 14 (11.66 %) belong to zone I, zone II, and zone III, respectively. Out of the least 50 countries having the lowest CMR, 1 (2.63 %), 4 (12.5 %), and 45 (37.5 %) belong to zone I, zone II, and zone III, respectively. CMR is low in those countries situated near to the Torrid zone (33(°) N to 23.5(°)S), but it is high for those countries situated away from these two latitudes. These data indicate that cold temperature may have a contribution in increasing tumorigenesis. High metabolic stress, which is the result of maintaining our body temperature against a cold environment, could be the possible cause for the higher cancer mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogenesis / genetics*
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology
  • Temperature*