Air Pollution may Raise Breast Cancer Risk

Already the culprit in a number of dangerous and deadly diseases, air pollution is now being linked to increased risks of <"">breast cancer. According to Science Daily, an emerging study has found that traffic pollution might be to blame for breast cancer.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, was conducted by researchers from The Research Institute of the MUHC (RI MUHC; Dr. Mark Goldberg), McGill University (Drs. Goldberg, Dan Crouse and Nancy Ross), and Université de Montréal (Dr. France Labrèche). In women, breast cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer.

“We’ve been watching breast cancer rates go up for some time, “said Dr. Goldberg. “Nobody really knows why, and only about one-third of cases are attributable to known risk factors. Since no one had studied the connection between air pollution and breast cancer using detailed air pollution maps, we decided to investigate it,” Dr. Goldberg added, quoted Science Daily.

The team combined information from a variety of studies and used results from their 2005-2006 study to make two air pollution “maps” indicating nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in Montreal in 1996 and 1986, said Science Daily. NO2 is a vehicular traffic by-product. The team then obtained the home addresses of women who received a breast cancer diagnoses during a 1996-1997 study, charting the information to their maps, said Science Daily. The team discovered breast cancer was higher in areas in which there were increased levels of air pollution.
“We found a link between post-menopausal breast cancer and exposure to nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is a ‘marker’ for traffic-related air pollution,” said Dr. Goldberg. “Across Montreal, levels of NO2 varied between 5 ppb to over 30 ppb. We found that risk increased by about 25 per cent with every increase of NO2 of five parts per billion. Another way of saying this is that women living in the areas with the highest levels of pollution were almost twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those living in the least polluted areas,” added Dr. Goldberg, quoted Science Daily.

“… this doesn’t mean NO2 causes breast cancer,” noted Dr. Goldberg. “This gas is not the only pollutant created by cars and trucks, but where it is present, so are the other gases, particles and compounds we associate with traffic—some of which are known carcinogens. NO2 is only a marker, not the actual carcinogenic agent,” quoted Science Daily.

“Some studies published in the US have also shown possible links between cancer and air pollution … this possible link also argues for actions aimed at reducing traffic-related air pollution in residential areas,” added Dr. Labrèche, according to Science Daily.

We recently cited a study linking air pollution to diabetes. In that study, auto exhaust and industrial smoke were among the fine particulate pollutants involved. Another study on which we wrote pointed to links to autoimmune diseases, infections, and genetics, with diseases seemingly sparked by environmental pollutants such as second-hand cigarette smoke, chemicals in food or the air, jet fuel fumes, and UV exposure; densely industrial areas saw higher incidences of autoimmune diseases.

We also wrote that an earlier review conducted by the National Academy of Sciences in 2008 concluded that short-term exposure to smog—or ozone—is definitively linked to premature deaths; a prior panel, which also studied these effects made strong links between short-term exposure to ozone and exacerbation of lung conditions, causing illness and hospitalization, even death. Yet, another study on which we reported linked early air pollutant exposure to lung disease in later life.

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