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Again, air pollution linked with rise in cancers

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor (Head Insight Team, Science & Technology)
09 May 2016   |   1:46 am
Researchers have found that long-term exposure to environmental pollutants was associated with increased risk of mortality for many types of cancer in an elderly Hong Kong population.
Air Pollution

Air Pollution

Little exposure may have long-term health effects on developing foetus

More evidences are emerging on why something has to be done urgently to prevent cancer pandemic in Nigeria.

Yet another study has linked the particulate matter, the term for particles found in the air, including hydrocarbons and heavy metals produced by transportation and power generation, among other sources to numerous cancers.

Researchers have found that long-term exposure to environmental pollutants was associated with increased risk of mortality for many types of cancer in an elderly Hong Kong population.

The study between the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom (UK) and University of Hong Kong, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, adds to growing concern around the health risks of prolonged exposure to ambient fine particulate matter.

Particulate matter is the term for particles found in the air, including hydrocarbons and heavy metals produced by transportation and power generation, among other sources. This study focused on ambient fine particulate matter, or matter with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5).

For every 10 microgram per cubic meter (µg/m³) of increased exposure to PM2.5, the risk of dying from any cancer rose by 22 percent.

Meanwhile, even small amounts of air pollution appear to raise the risk of a condition in pregnant women linked to premature births and lifelong neurological and respiratory disorders in their children, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.

Fine particles from car exhaust, power plants and other industrial sources are breathed into the lungs, but the scientists have now found evidence of the effects of that pollution in the pregnant women’s placentas, the organ that connects her to her fetus and provides blood, oxygen and nutrition. They found that the greater the maternal exposure to air pollution, the more likely the pregnant women suffered from a condition called intrauterine inflammation, which can increase the risk of a number of health problems for her child from the fetal stage well into childhood.

The researchers, reporting online April 27 in Environmental Health Perspectives, say the findings add to the growing evidence that the air a pregnant woman breathes could have long-term health consequences for her child and that current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air pollution standards may not be stringent enough to protect her developing fetus.

Dr. Neil Thomas, from the Institute of Applied Health at The University of Birmingham, said, “The implications for other similar cities around the world are that PM2.5 must be reduced to reduce the health burden. Air pollution remains a clear, modifiable public health concern.”

Dr. Thuan Quoc Thach, from the University of Hong Kong, said, “Long-term exposure to particulate matter has been associated with mortality mainly from cardiopulmonary causes and lung cancer, but there have been few studies showing an association with mortality from other cancers. We suspected that these particulates could have an equivalent effect on cancers elsewhere in the body.”

The researchers recruited 66,280 people aged 65 or older between 1998 and 2001, and followed the subjects until 2011, ascertaining causes of death from Hong Kong registrations. Annual concentrations of PM2.5 at their homes were estimated using data from satellite data and fixed-site monitors.

After adjusting for smoking status, and excluding deaths that had occurred within three years of the baseline to control for competing diseases, the study showed that for every 10 µg/m³ of increased exposure to PM2.5, the risk of dying from any cancer rose by 22 percent. Increases of 10 µg/m³ of PM2.5 were associated with a 42 percent increased risk of mortality from cancer in the upper digestive tract and a 35 percent increased risk of mortality from accessory digestive organs, which include the liver, bile ducts, gall bladder, and pancreas.

For women, every 10 µg/m³ increase in exposure to PM2.5 was associated with an 80 percent increased risk of mortality from breast cancer, and men experienced a 36 percent increased risk of dying of lung cancer for every 10 µg/m³ increased exposure to PM2.5.

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