More reports on: Health & Medicine

Polluted air linked to increased risk of many types of cancer

05 May 2016

Fine-particle air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of dying from many cancers, including breast, liver and pancreatic cancer, for elderly people in Hong Kong.

''We assumed a number of sites would be affected, but outside of the expected lung and upper GI cancers, we were unsure which cancers would show an association, so this really helps highlight the breadth of involvement of particulates in the development of cancer,'' said co-lead author G Neil Thomas, from the Institute of Applied Health of the College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham in the UK, Reuters reported.

Thomas told Reuters by mail that ultra-fine particles could pass into the blood stream and had the potential to impact any part of the body.

The researchers started following over 66,000 people aged 65 and older in Hong Kong between 1998 and 2001 and tracked them through 2011. Satellite data and site monitors were used to estimate fine particulate matter in the air at the subjects' homes.

The researchers focused on fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, produced by motor vehicles, power plants and other industrial combustion, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, Nepalis who had never smoked faced an increased risk of lung cancer due to common household air pollutants, a new study has revealed.

Women and children were especially vulnerable to long-term exposure to household air pollution, said researchers from the University of Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, University of Utah School of Medicine and Nepal's BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital who were involved in the study.

The study investigated the association between exposure to household air pollutants created by burning biomass fuels - such as wood, charcoal, crop residue and dung and lung cancer risk.

SciDev.Net quoted lead author Greg A Raspanti, "Our results suggest that chronic exposure to [household air pollution] resulting from biomass combustion is associated with increased lung cancer risk, particularly among never-smokers in Nepal.

"Household air pollution resulting from the use of these solid fuels is of particular concern, given the overall prevalence as well as the intensity of exposure and the range of potential adverse health outcomes.''

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