A study performed by scientists from the University of Illinois at Chicago suggests that people who live in areas with more pollution in the water, air, and land are at a higher risk of developing cancer. As compared to previous research, this study looks at the combined effect of more pollutants and not only at a particular contaminant.
Researchers looked at how often people get diagnosed with cancer in each U.S. county. They obtained an average of 451 cancer diagnoses for 100,000 people. Then, they compared these with statistics from countries with better environmental conditions. Those counties with the lowest cancer rates still had 39 more cases on average than these countries.
Researchers looked at the effect of all kinds of pollution
Dr. Jyotsna Jagai, the lead author of the study, said that they wanted to see what is the effect of all the pollutants combined. As people are not exposed only to one critical environmental contaminant, it was important to see if the impact was bigger in this case. They discovered that poorer environmental conditions are indeed linked to higher risks of cancer.
To come up with the conclusions, researchers looked at data from each county in the United States. They analyzed environmental data collected between 2000 and 2005, and data regarding cancer rates between 2006 and 2010.
Poorer environmental conditions are associated with higher cancer risk
The counties with the highest pollution rates had, indeed, more cancer cases. Among men living in these counties, there were recorded 33 more cases on average than among those living in better environmental conditions. Women scored 33 more cases on average.
Besides looking at cancer rates in general, they also looked at the incidence of the most common types of tumors, namely colorectal, lung, breast, and prostate. From all these, they found that breast and prostate cancer are strongly related to precarious environmental conditions.
The study has its limitations. For instance, they might not have enough data to highlight a clear connection between cancer and pollution. Also, they failed to look at the people’s lifestyles and the possible factors which could influence their cancer risk.
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