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Cancer - How Pollution Is Worsening The Situation?

Dr. Harpreet Singh 88% (94 ratings)
MD - Radiation Oncology, MBBS, Diploma in Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases (DTCD)
Oncologist, Delhi  •  34 years experience
Cancer - How Pollution Is Worsening The Situation?

More and more cancer types are being linked to air pollution. While the linkage is quite easily understandable between air pollution and lung cancer, the damage does not stop there. It is far more harmful, and whether or not it is part of the respiratory system, most cancers are linked to air pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified air pollution as carcinogenic to humans.

The amount of particulate matter in the air, especially in developing countries like China and India, are loaded with carcinogenic material. This is due to increased transport overload, power generation, industrial emissions, residential heating etc. The exact composition of the air can vary depending on the time of the year, the location, weather, etc. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) also is spending a lot of time and money to find out the connection between these two. Establishing the link can help in preventing cancer.

Read on to understand the correlation between factors affecting air pollution and cancer incidence.

  • Air pollution is not uniform and varies across the globe, depending on how some of the above mentioned factors are affected.
  • Developing countries have more pollution levels, especially from vehicular fuel exhaust, metals, dust, and chemical solvents. These contaminate the air, making it carcinogenic.
  • There is also lead, which is another “probable human carcinogen,” causing cancer of the liver, brain, and kidney.
  • The other chemicals in polluted air include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and ozone.
  • Also there are various compounds like volatile organic compounds, outdoor air pollutants, and other particulate matter, which are present in greater numbers in polluted areas.
  • Paint thinners, dry cleaning agents, and other metals also contribute to increased air pollution. This, when inhaled, induces chronic inflammation in the tissues, making them react to the inflammation.
  • Both outdoor and indoor agents cause pollution, and increases risk of developing cancer.
  • Second hand smoke is a lot more dangerous than imaginable in inducing cancer.

Mechanism: Cancer is a result of chronic inflammation, which induces uncontrolled proliferation of the cells. A combination of the above mentioned compounds along with a strong predisposition (family history, for instance) puts the person at a very high risk to develop cancer. The symptoms may takes years, sometimes decades, to develop, but the onset starts off with continued exposure to these agents. So, if you are predisposed to developing cancer, ensure your exposure to the above pollutants is reduced, even if it cannot be completely avoided. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an Oncologist.
 

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