Air pollution tied to lung cancer in non-smokers

Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer, about one in 10 people who develop lung cancer have never smoked. Lung cancer in ‘never smokers’ is an important cancer. It’s the sixth leading cause of cancer. Previous estimates of how many non-smokers get lung cancer range from 14 to 21 out of every 100,000 women and five to 14 out of every 100,000 men. The fine particles in air pollution, which can irritate the lungs and cause inflammation, are thought to be a risk factor for lung cancer, but researchers had not clearly teased apart their impact from that of smoking.

Pollution levels in different locations ranged from a low of about six units to a high of 38. The levels dropped over time, however, from an average of 21 units in 1979 – 1983, to 14 units in 1999 – 2000, producing an overall average pollution level of 17 units across the study period. After the team took into account other cancer risk factors, such as second-hand smoke and radon exposure, they found that for every 10 extra units of air pollution exposure, a person’s risk of lung cancer rose by 15 to 27 percent. The increased risk for lung cancer associated with pollution is small in comparison to the 20-fold increased risk from smoking. Read more…

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