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Air Quality and Lung Cancer in Wayne County, Mich.—a Large Urban/Suburban Study

Air Quality and Lung Cancer in Wayne County, Mich.—a Large Urban/Suburban Study

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in North America. Although cigarette smoking remains the main risk factor for lung cancer development, the importance of environmental factors such as pollution and poor air quality is becoming increasingly recognized. Excessive exposure to air pollutants, frequently found in larger urban areas, can lead to negative health outcomes including lung cancer.

To understand the relationship between specific environmental pollutants and lung cancer in a large urban county in Michigan, Hollis E. Hutchings, MD, and a research group out of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit analyzed comprehensive lung cancer information and air pollution data encompassing more than three decades. The group investigated the spatial relationship of lung cancer incidence within Wayne County over time and used air pollutant data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to analyze the relationship between pollutant levels and the incidence of lung cancer.

The group identified 58,866 cases of lung cancer. There were three major clusters of lung cancer incidence in the county. The most intense clusters were in downtown Detroit and the heavily industrialized downriver area. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) had the strongest statistical correlation with lung cancer. Particulate matter 10 (PM10), nitric oxide (NO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone levels also had statistically significant correlations with incidence.

Based on these data, the group suggests that resident health in areas with poor air quality may benefit from targeted interventions such as campaigns for lung cancer screening and reduction of pollutants. Residential history may also be important when counseling individual patients with lung disease.

Dr. Hutchings will present the results of this study Sunday, May 6, at the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) 103rd Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.