Air Pollution Linked to Lung Cancer and Heart Failure

Air pollution has been linked to a higher risk of suffering lung cancer and heart failure according to several new studies that analyzed the effects of a short and long term exposure to the pollutants from traffic and industry in our cities.

“Ambient air pollution is suspected to cause lung cancer. We aimed to assess the association between long-term exposure to ambient air pollution and lung cancer incidence in European populations.” the Lancet Oncology Report said.

The researchers used the data from 17 studies in 9 European countries of the air pollution effects on human health and found that for every increase of 5 micrograms per cubic meter, the risk of lung cancer rose 18%.

The method they used: “This prospective analysis of data obtained by the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects used data from 17 cohort studies based in nine European countries. Baseline addresses were geocoded and we assessed air pollution by land-use regression models for particulate matter (PM) with diameter of less than 10 μm (PM10), less than 2·5 μm (PM2·5), and between 2·5 and 10 μm (PMcoarse), soot (PM2·5absorbance), nitrogen oxides, and two traffic indicators. We used Cox regression models with adjustment for potential con founders for cohort-specific analyses and random effects models for meta-analysis.”

The researchers lead by Dr. Ole Raaschou-Nielsen from the Danish Cancer Society Research Center found that particulate matter in air pollution contributes to a higher risk of lung cancer and hearth failures. Smokers have a higher risk but there is people who will get sick because of where they live.

Their findings: “The 312 944 cohort members contributed 4 013 131 person-years at risk. During follow-up (mean 12·8 years), 2095 incident lung cancer cases were diagnosed. The meta-analysis showed a statistically significant association between risk for lung cancer and PM10 (hazard ratio [HR] 1·22 [95% CI 1·03—1·45] per 10 μg/m3). For PM2·5 the HR was 1·18 (0·96—1·46) per 5 μg/m3. The same increments of PM10 and PM2·5 were associated with HRs for adenocarcinomas of the lung of 1·51 (1·10—2·08) and 1·55 (1·05—2·29), respectively. An increase in road traffic of 4000 vehicle-km per day within 100 m of the residence was associated with an HR for lung cancer of 1·09 (0·99—1·21). The results showed no association between lung cancer and nitrogen oxides concentration (HR 1·01 [0·95—1·07] per 20 μg/m3) or traffic intensity on the nearest street (HR 1·00 [0·97—1·04] per 5000 vehicles per day).”

The other study led by Nicholas Mills from Edinburgh University and funded by the British Heart Foundation, shows the fatal effects of air pollution on humans. There are 20 million people worldwide that suffers heart failure.

“Heart failure is a common, costly and fatal condition … and is one of the most frequent reasons for hospital admission,” Mills said. “While the role of air pollution is well recognized as a risk factor for heart attacks, it has been less clear whether exposure increases the risk of adverse events in patients with other cardiovascular conditions like heart failure.”

“Since the entire population is exposed to air pollution, even modest reductions in air pollution could have major cardiovascular health benefits and substantial healthcare cost savings.”

Air pollution comes mostly from diesel fumes, household heating and industries.

Written by Edgar Soto

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