Cancer and air quality

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Air pollution becomes a global environmental issue.

Every low, middle, and high-income country is facing a health-related burden because of the constant degradation of air quality.

In 2016, 4.2 million premature deaths across the global population lived in different cities and rural areas had occurred.

The reason for deaths is air pollution-induced cardiovascular, respiratory diseases, and cancers. Polluted air containing fine particulates (2.5 microns or less) affects the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, and other associated organs.

According to the World Health Organization data dated 2016 reported that 6% of premature deaths occurred due to cancer, specifically lung cancers, though apart from air pollution, tobacco smoking was also considered as a reason for these lung cancer-associated deaths.

Carcinogens present in the polluted air not only affect the lungs but also impact other organs.

The incidence of urinary bladder cancer because of polluted air is also higher.

The breast, liver, and pancreas are some other organs that are highly impacted because of the poor quality of air.

Evidence supports that the risks of breast, liver, and pancreatic cancers become higher due to air pollution.

Multiple studies were conducted in Hong Kong, Birmingham, and United Kingdom to confirm the impact of air pollution.

It has been found that long-term exposure in an ambient containing PM2.5 or particulates with 2.5 micrometers or less can increase the cancer incidence.

These studies reported that an increase of PM2.5 containing every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increases the risk of 22% of cancer death.

It has also been found that the health risk as well as death rate increases for the elderly population with poor air quality.

Not only cancer incidence rate becomes higher but the worsening of existing cancer condition is also significant with poor quality of air.

Survey reports showed that 42% of mortality is increased in patients with the upper digestive tract.

Moreover, the mortality risks of patients with accessory digestive organ cancers such as liver, gall bladder, bile ducts, and pancreas also increased by 35%.

The mortality risk for breast cancer patients is almost 80% higher and lung cancer-associated mortality risk is increased by 36%.

All these calculations are based on exposure to the 10 µg/m3 PM2.5.

Sources of carcinogens in air pollution

Diesel engine exhaust is one of the primary reasons for outdoor air pollution

Combustions of coal and household use of solid fuels are probable carcinogens present in the air.

How does air pollution impact the risk of cancer?

Although the exact mechanism of actions of air pollution is unknown, researchers expected that air pollution impact DNA repairing ability, alter the normal immune response of the body that triggers angiogenesis and inflammation, along with these activates blood vessels growth on tumors cells that assist in spreading of cancer. Air pollution impacts digestive tracts by altering gut microbiota and triggering cancer development.

The study results were obtained from a specific global zone. However, research scientists are further studied to check the impact of air pollution from a global perspective and reported that other countries also experience similar associations between air pollution and cancer deaths. Therefore, it is highly recommended that improvement of air quality by controlling PM2.5 in the air is primary ecological demand to control the cancer risk and other health concerning aspects. In association with air quality, diet and physical exercise are also important lifestyle measures to implement among every individual to control the disease risk.

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