Improving ‘worst’ environments in US could prevent 39 in every 100,000 cancer deaths, study claims

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That’s according to the first study to address the impact of cumulative exposure to environmental hazards on cancer incidence in the US, which found strong links between poor environmental quality and increased rates of cancer.

The environment we live in can influence biological processes such as hormone function and gene expression, or cause DNA damage – all of which can alter the risk of developing certain cancers. For instance, lung cancer incidence can increase due to chronic exposure to certain pesticides, diesel exhaust and the radioactive gas radon. Social factors also take their toll – poverty is linked to liver cancer, for example, due to increased alcohol consumption.

The results showed increases in cancer incidence with decreasing environmental quality. The link was clearest with prostate and breast cancer.

[Scarlett Gomez of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California] says that although identifying individual exposures can allow them to be addressed in a targeted way, pinpointing them can be difficult because many potential cancer factors are linked together. For example, people of low socioeconomic status tend to live in areas that score poorly for multiple environmental factors.

[Read the full study here.]

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