Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Air pollution: a potentially modifiable risk factor for lung cancer

Abstract

Economic growth and increased urbanization pose a new risk for cancer development: the exposure of high numbers of people to ambient air pollution. Epidemiological evidence that links air pollution to mortality from lung cancer is robust. An ability to produce high-quality scientific research that addresses these risks and the ability of local health authorities to understand and respond to these risks are basic requirements to solve the conflict between economic development and the preservation of human health. However, this is currently far from being achieved. Thus, this Science and Society article addresses the possibilities of expanding scientific networking to increase awareness of the risk of lung cancer that is promoted by air pollution.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Global annual mean PM10 concentrations in 2009 by population density.
Figure 2: A comparison of scientific research output on various global health issues.

References

  1. Lim, S. S. et al. A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet. 380, 2224–2260 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Clancy, L., Goodman, P., Sinclair, H. & Dockery, D. W. Effect of air-pollution control on death rates in Dublin, Ireland: an intervention study. Lancet 360, 1210–1214 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Pope, C. A. et al. Lung cancer, cardiopulmonary mortality and long-term exposure to fine particulate air pollution. JAMA 287, 1132–1141 (2002).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Pope, C. A., Ezzati, M. & Dockery, D. W. Fine-particulate air pollution and life expectancy in the United States. New Engl. J. Med. 360, 376–386 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Lepeule, J., Laden, F., Dockery, D. & Schwartz, J. Chronic exposure to fine particles and mortality: an extended follow-up of the Harvard six cities study from 1974 to 200. Environ. Health Persp. 120, 965–970 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Vineis, P. et al. Lung cancers attributable to environmental tobacco smoke and air pollution in non-smokers in different European countries: a prospective study. Environ. Health 6, 1–7 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Vineis, P. et al. Genetic susceptibility according to three metabolic pathways in cancers of the lung and bladder and in myeloid leukemias in nonsmokers. Ann. Oncol. 18, 1230–1242 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Fang, Y., Naik, V., Horowitz, L. W. & Mauzerall, D. L. Air pollution and associated human mortality: the role of air pollutant emissions, climate change and methane concentration increases from the preindustrial period to present. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 13, 1377–1394 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Krewski, D. et al. Extended follow-up and spatial analysis of the American Cancer Society study linking particulate air pollution and mortality. Res. Resp. Health Eff. Inst. 5–114 (2009).

  10. Turner, M. C. et al. Long-term ambient fine particulate matter air pollution and lung cancer in a large cohort of never-smokers. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 184, 1374–1381 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Pope, C. A. et al. Lung cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality associated with ambient air pollution and cigarette smoke: shape of the exposure-response relationships. Environ. Health Perspect. 119, 1616–1621 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Evans, J. et al. Estimates of global mortality attributable to particulate air pollution using satellite imagery. Environ. Res. 120, 33–42 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Crouse, D. L., Goldberg, M. S., Ross, N. A., Chen, H. & Labrèches, F. Postmenopausal breast cancer is associated with exposure to traffic-related air pollution in Montreal, Canada: a case–control study. Environ. Health Persp. 118, 1578–1583 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Chen, F. & Bina, W. F. Correlation of white female breast cancer incidence trends with nitrogen dioxide emission levels and motor vehicle density patterns. Breast Cancer Res. Treat. 132, 327–333 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Nie, J. et al. Exposure to traffic emissions throughout life and risk of breast cancer: the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer (WEB) study. Cancer Causes Control 18, 947–955 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Wei, Y., Davis, J. & Bina, W. F. Ambient air pollution is associated with the increased incidence of breast cancer in US. Int. J. Environ. Health Res. 22, 12–21 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Whitworth, K. W. Symanski, E. Coker, A. L. Childhood lymphohematopoietic cancer incidence and hazardous air pollutants in southeast Texas, 1995–2004. Environ. Health Persp. 116, 1576–1580 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Weng, H. H., Tsai, S. S., Chiu, H. F., Wu, T. N. & Yang, C. Y. Childhood leukemia and traffic air pollution in Taiwan: petrol station density as an indicator. J. Toxicol. Environ. Health A 72, 83–87 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Liu, C. C., et al. Ambient exposure criteria pollutants risk death from bladder cancer Taiwan. Inhal. Toxicol. 21, 48–54 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Castaño-Vinyals, G. et al. Air pollution and risk of urinary bladder cancer in a case-control study in Spain. Occup. Environ. Med. 65, 56–60 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Tsai, S. S., Tiao, M. M., Kuo, H. W., Wu, T. N. & Yang, C. Y. Association of bladder cancer with residential exposure to petrochemical air pollutant emissions in Taiwan. J. Toxicol. Environ. Health A 72, 53–59 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Colli, J., Lee, B. R. & Thomas, R. Population densities in relation to bladder cancer mortality rates in America from 1950 to 1994. Int. Urol. Nephrol. 44, 443–449 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. OECD. Environmental outlook to 2050: the consequences of inaction. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [online], (2012).

  24. Wilkinson, P., Smith, K. R., Beevers, S., Tonne, C. & Oreszczyn, T. Energy and Health 4: Energy, energy efficiency, and the built environment. Lancet. 370, 1175–1187 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. WMO/IGAC. Impacts of Megacities on Air Pollution and Climate [online], (2012).

  26. James, W., Jia, C. & Kedia, S. Uneven magnitude of disparities in cancer risks from air toxics. Int. J. Environ. Res. Publ. Health. 9, 4365–4385 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Bellen, R. et al. Long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution and lung cancer risk. Epidemiology. 19, 702–710 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Brunekreef, B. et al. Effects of long-term exposure to traffic-related air pollution on respiratory and cardiovascular mortality in the Netherlands: the NLCS-AIR study. Res. Rep. Health Eff. Inst. 5–71 (2009).

  29. Cesaroni, G. et al. Long-term exposure to urban air pollution and mortality in a cohort of more than a million adults in Rome. Environ. Health Persp. 121, 324–331 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Heinrich, J. et al. Long-term exposure to NO2 and PM10 and all-cause and cause-specfip mortality in a prospective cohort of women. Occup. Environ. Med. 70, 179–186 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Dockery, D. W. et al. An association between air pollution and mortality in six US cities. New Engl. J. Med. 329, 1753–1759 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Jerret, M. et al. Spatial analysis of air pollution and mortality in Los Angeles. Epidemiology. 16, 727–736 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Cao, J. et al. Association between long-term expousure to outdoor air pollution and mortality in China: a cohort study. J. Hazard. Mater. 189, 1594–1600 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Kantanoda, K. et al. An association between long-term exposure to ambient air pollution and mortality from lung cancer and respiratory diseases in Japan. J. Epidemiol. 21, 132–143 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Yorifuji, T. et al. Long-term expousure to traffic-related air pollution and the risk of death from hemorrhagic stroke and lung cancer in Shizuoka, Japan. Sci. Total Environ. 443, 397–402 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Health Effects Institute. Understanding the Health Effects of Components of the Particulate Matter Mix: Progress and Next Steps. (HEI, 2002).

  37. Pope, C. A. & Dockery, D. W. Health effects of fine particulate air pollution: lines that connect. J. Air. Waste. Manag. Assoc. 56, 709–742 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Benbrahim-Tallaa, L. et al. Carcinogenicity of diesel-engine and gasoline-engine exhausts and some nitroarenes. Lancet Oncol. 13, 663–664 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Beckerman, B. et al. Correlation of nitrogen dioxide with other traffic pollutants near a major expressway. Atmospher. Environ. 42, 275–290 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Van Erp, A. M., O'Keefe, R., Cohen, A. J., Warren, J. Evaluating the effectiveness of air quality interventions. J. Toxicol. Environ. Health A 71, 583–587 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. World Health Organization. Air quality guidelines: global update 2005. (WHO, 2006).

  42. Vahlsing, C. & Smith, K. R. Global review of national ambient air quality standards for PM10 and SO2 (24 h). Air Qual. Atmos. Health 5, 393–399 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Companhia Ambiental do Estado do São Paulo. Qualidade do ar no estado de São Paulo 2012. (in Portugese) [online], (2013).

  44. Smith, K. R. et al. Energy and Human Health. Annu. Rev. Publ. Health 34, 159–188 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Coal Industry Advisory Board. Power generation from coal: measuring and reporting efficiency performance and CO2 emissions. [online], (2010).

  46. EURACOAL. Coal Industry across Europe. [online], (2013).

  47. Wilkinson, P., Smith, K. R., Beevers, S., Tonne, C. & Oreszczyn, T. Energy and Health 4: Energy, energy efficiency, and the built environment. Lancet 370, 1175–1187 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Markandya, A. & Wilkinson, P. Energy and Health 2: Electricity generation and health. Lancet 370, 979–990 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. World Bank. Population density (people per sq. km of land area). [online], (2012).

  50. World Bank. PM10, country level (micrograms per cubic meter). [online], (2012).

  51. Raaschou-Nielsen, O. et al. Air pollution and lung cancer incidence in 17 European cohorts: prospective analyses from the European Study of Cohorts for Air Pollution Effects (ESCAPE). http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70279-1 (2013).

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was partly supported by grants (number 573813/2008-6) from CNPq (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico) and by grant (number 12/19266-8) from FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo). P.S., L.V.B. and L.F. developed the ideas in the article. L.F. and L.V.B. designed the maps. L.F. and M.V. carried out the literature review, and L.F., M.V., L.V.B. and P.S. wrote the article. The authors collected the relevant literature on cancer effects and air pollution by searching the Web of Science database for papers published from 1981 to date using the terms air pollution and cancer, and by applying the public environmental and occupational health filter.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Paulo Saldiva.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Related links

DATABASES

Web of Science

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Fajersztajn, L., Veras, M., Barrozo, L. et al. Air pollution: a potentially modifiable risk factor for lung cancer. Nat Rev Cancer 13, 674–678 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrc3572

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nrc3572

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing