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Overall Environmental Factors Can Up Cancer Risk In Humans

9 May 2017, 11:00 pm EDT By Steve Bowman Tech Times
A new study suggested that exposure to pollution is linked with higher cancer risk. The researchers shared that the findings are applicable for both male and female populations in the United States.  ( Kevin Frayer | Getty Images )

According to a new U.S.-based study, overall environmental pollution — water, air, and land — can greatly increase the risk of Americans developing cancer.

The study asserts that poor air quality — coupled with other man-made factors that impact the environment, such as construction of major roads and highways, housing, and public transport — are responsible for elevating cancer risk in both men and women. On the other hand, land and water pollution's effect on cancer risk had "no measurable effect."

Researchers are optimistic that the study's findings may assist scientists and health officials in reducing cancer rates. The discovery may propel them to push forward policies to reduce pollution concentration in specific areas having high cancer rates.

Previous studies indicated that genetics are responsible for half the cancer numbers, but not all. This suggests that exposure to environmental pollution and toxins may also have a hand in increasing the cancer risk in an individual.

"Overall environmental quality was very strongly associated with increased cancer risk," lead author of the study Jyotsna Jagai from the University of Illinois at Chicago told WebMD.

Pollution Linked With Higher Cancer Risk: Study

According to the authors of the study, nearly one in four Americans succumb to death due to cancer. In 2016, nearly 1,600 Americans died each day because of cancer. To gain an in-depth understanding on how environmental factors affect cancer risk, the researchers observed cancer occurrence in roughly 2,700 suburban, urban, and rural counties all over the United States. The cancer incidence data was initially gathered by the U.S. National Cancer Institute between 2006 and 2010.

To understand the overall environmental quality impact on people, researchers analyzed data collected for the U.S. Environmental Quality Index or EQI review between 2000 and 2005, which preceded the cancer incidence period.

The EQI review listed more than 200 environmental variables responsible for fueling cancer risk. These factors included air and water quality, housing and transportation safety, exposure to contaminants and pesticides, and exposure to crime.

In the review, the lower the score the worse was that particular environmental issue. The current research team determined that on an average, the counties had 451 cancer incidents for 100,000 residents each year. However, when these rates were measured in terms of EQI assessments, it was seen that the cancer occurrence in counties with poor environmental quality increased significantly.

Findings Of The Study

It was discovered during the course of the study that for every 100,000 individuals, men living in counties with lowest environmental quality suffered from 33 more cases of all cancer types on an average vis-à-vis males residing in counties with the highest environmental quality.

The most commonly occurring cancer types out of all tumors were prostate, colorectal, lung, and breast cancer. The study also found that breast and prostate cancers had a strong link with the environmental quality.

Study's Limitations 

The only limitation that the team listed was the inadequate data used to conduct the research. The researchers shared that they did not have sufficient years of data to completely examine the association between cancer and the environmental pollutants, as slow growing tumors may crop up after several years of pollutant exposure.

The key findings of the study have been published in journal Cancer on Monday, May 8.

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