Air Pollution Linked To Oral Cancer Risk By A Recent Study


Taiwanese researchers published a study linking air pollution and oral cancer for the first time. According to the research, high levels of air pollutants, particularly fine particulate matter (PM2.5), could be linked to an increased risk of oral cancer. This work by Taiwanese researchers was published earlier in the Journal of Investigative Medicine.

Known risk factors for oral cancer are tobacco, alcohol, human papillomavirus and, in some parts of Southeast Asia, chewing betel, a sort of tobacco plant. But fine particles, PM2.5, are known to be harmful to respiratory and cardiovascular health. Present in the air we inhale, they penetrate deeply into the respiratory tracts and cause coughing, shortness of breath, sore throat, and headaches.

To explore the potential role of air pollution in the development of oral cancer, Professor Yung-Po Liaw and his colleagues used national databases on cancer, health, insurance, and air quality. They calculated the average levels of air pollutants, including sulfur and nitrogen dioxide, carbon and nitrogen monoxide, and various measurements of fine particulate matter, taken in 2009 at 66 air quality monitoring stations in Taiwan.

Air pollution linked to oral cancer by a new study conducted by Taiwanese researchers

The study included 482,659 men aged 40 and over who received preventive health services and reported whether they smoked and chewed betel. Among them, in the 2012-2013 period, about 1600 cases of oral cancer were diagnosed. Not surprisingly, smoking and frequent chewing of betel were significantly associated with an increased risk of diagnosis.

But the researchers also found that high levels of PM2.5 were associated with an increased risk of oral cancer, after taking into account other risk factors, as well. Increased levels of particulate matter were linked to an increased risk of oral cancer by 43% compared to lower levels of PM2.5.

A significant association has also been observed at some ozone levels. Some components of fine particulate matter PM2.5 include heavy metals, as well as compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some well-known carcinogens.

“This study, with large sample size, is the first to associate oral cancer with fine particulate matter PM2.5,” according to the researchers. “These results are in addition to the growing evidence of the adverse effects of PM2.5 on human health,” as they noted.


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