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Researchers report a modest association between air pollution resulting from traffic and risk of lung cancer. These findings were recently published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.[1]

Although the relationship between lung cancer and air pollution has not been clearly defined, some research indicates that exposure to certain air pollutants may be associated with lung cancer. These air pollutants include byproducts of fossil fuel combustion, exhaust from motor vehicles and diesel engines, and emissions from power plants and industrial centers.

This Danish study evaluated lung cancer risk in relation to levels of traffic-related air pollution as measured by concentrations of nitrogen oxides. The study involved 679 people with lung cancer and 3,481 people without lung cancer. Average exposure to nitrogen oxides was estimated based on residential address. The analysis accounted for other known or potential lung cancer risk factors such as smoking, educational level, body mass index, and alcohol consumption.

The researchers reported a modest association between traffic-related air pollution and lung cancer risk (37% increase in risk for every100 μg/m3 increase in nitrogen oxides).

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Research is ongoing to determine the causes of lung cancer and find ways to prevent it. Avoiding environmental risk factors may help to prevent lung cancer.


[1] Raaschou-Nielsen O, Bak H, Sørensen M, et al. Air Pollution from Traffic and Risk for Lung Cancer in Three Danish Cohorts. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2010; 19(5):1284-91.

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