Study Shows Correlation Between Proximity To Oil Refineries And Cancer Risk. But More Research Is Needed.

A UT Medical Branch doctor and researcher says refineries will be key partners in helping better understand the health risks of living within 30 miles of those facilities.

By Jill Ament & Caroline CovingtonDecember 3, 2020 3:52 pm,

A new study from the University of Texas Medical Branch reports a strong correlation between a person’s cancer risk and their home’s proximity to oil refineries.

Dr. Stephen Williams is the lead researcher for the study that looked at several types of cancers occurring in people living within 30 miles of an oil refinery, between 2010 and 2014. The data analysis covered over 6 million people and over 800,000 cancer cases.

We found increased risk across all cancer types that were assessed,” Williams told Texas Standard.

Researchers also found that risk grew the closer one lived to a refinery.

While the study shows a correlation between cancer risk and proximity to refineries, it doesn’t prove that exposure to pollution from those refineries caused cancer. For that, he says individual-level research is required, along with partnerships with the refineries themselves.

I think what would be critical is that we have partnerships with the oil refinery industries … but then also any other particular data that they may have so that maybe we can actually perform analysis,” Williams said, “and then determining, really, is there a significant increased risk?”

But he says his findings should give people pause.

“It causes a concern,” he said. “One response is, Doesn’t this seem to make sense? But no study actually really has determined this.”

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