Prolonged exposure to particulate air pollution increases the risk of lung cancer even at levels below the European Union limit values, according to one of the largest studies of its kind published in The Lancet Oncology. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, researcher and coordinator of the Air Pollution program at CREAL, centre of the ISGlobal alliance, has participated in this study.
"At this stage, we might have to add air pollution, even at current concentrations, to the list of causes of lung cancer and recognise that air pollution has large effects on public health", warns Nieuwenhuijsen.
Ole Raaschou-Nielsen from the Danish Cancer Society Research Center led an international team of researchers to assess the impact of long-term exposure to nitrogen oxides and particulate matter (those with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers; PM2.5, and less than 10 micrometers; PM10) on the risk of lung cancer. Sources of particulate matter air pollution include traffic, industry, and domestic heating.
The researchers did a meta-analysis of 17 cohort studies in nine European countries including almost 313.000 people. The analysis found that for every increase of 5 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 pollution, the risk of lung cancer rose by 18%, and for every increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter in PM10 pollution the risk increased by 22%. No association between lung cancer and nitrogen oxides was noted.
According Nieuwenhuijsen, "The association between particulate matter air pollution and the risk for lung cancer persisted also at concentrations below the existing European Union air quality limit values. We found no threshold below which there was no risk."
Read the full article at The Lancet Oncology here.