Although scientists have long known that air pollution is linked with an increased risk of lung cancer, but new research suggests one mechanism that might explain how air pollution may trigger lung cancer among non-smokers. Smoking remains the primary cause of lung cancer but there are other factors also that are causing this deadly disease among non-smokers as well. One of the prominent causes is air pollution. In the year 2019, over three lakh lung cancer deaths around the world were caused due to air pollution.
The recent findings which were released on 10 September looked at a cohort of 40000 people. The researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London have found that exposure to fine particulate matter may cause lung cancer in people with no history of smoking. In this study, they investigated the hypothesis that PM 2.5 causes inflammation in the lungs which further leads to dormant cells carrying cancerous mutations to get active. They also found that in areas with high PM 2.5, the rates of other kinds of cancers are also higher.
Charles Swanton, one of the researchers of the findings, said, “The same particles in the air that derive from the combustion of fossil fuels, exacerbating climate change, are directly impacting human health via an important and previously overlooked cancer-causing mechanism in lung cells.” “Globally, more people are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution than to toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke,” he added.
This observation is based on both human and mice experiments. In areas where the particulate matter concentration was 2.5 micrometers in diameter, considered to cause the greatest harm among people. The cells with cancer-causing mutations accumulate naturally as we age but normally they remain inactive. Due to exposure to air pollution, the cells wake up in the lung and grow and potentially form tumors. The study revealed that even small changes in air pollution may cause a devastating effect on human health.
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