Rising global temperatures could lead to an increase in kidney stones, according to research presented at the 103rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA). Dehydration has been linked to stone disease, particularly in warmer climates, and global warming will exacerbate this effect. As a result, the prevalence of stone disease may increase, along with the costs of treating the condition.
Using published data to determine the temperature-dependence of stone disease, researchers applied predictions of temperature increase to determine the impact of global warming on the incidence and cost of stone disease in the United States. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates a 1-20 C increase in temperature by 2050 for much of the United States. These findings place a greater significance on the harmful effects of global warming, an ongoing economic and political issue.
The southern United States is considered “the stone belt” because these states have higher incidences of kidney stones. Rising global temperatures could expand this region; the fraction of the U.S. population living in high-risk stone zones is predicted to grow from 40 percent in 2000 to 50 percent by 2050.
This could lead to an increase of one to two million lifetime cases of stone disease. The impact of climate-related changes in stone disease will be non-uniformly distributed and likely concentrated in the southern half of the country (linear model) or upper Midwest (non-linear model). The cost associated with treating stone disease could climb as high as one $1 billion annually by 2050, representing a 10-20 percent increase over present-day estimates.
- Pearle MS, Lotan Y, Brikowski T: Predicted climate-related increase in the prevalence and cost of nephrolithiasis in the U.S. J Urol, suppl., 2008; 179: 481, abstract 1407. [link]
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