Scientists Find How Air Pollution May Trigger Lung Cancer

According to a recent study, small pollutant particles in the air may trigger lung cancer even in people who have never smoked. 

Tanya Srivastava
Written by: Tanya SrivastavaPublished at: Sep 13, 2022Updated at: Sep 13, 2022
Scientists Find How Air Pollution May Trigger Lung Cancer

Breathing in air pollutants can irritate our airways which may cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, asthma episodes and chest pain. Exposure to air pollution puts people at risk for lung cancer, heart attacks, stroke and in extreme cases, premature death. According to a recent study, small pollutant particles in the air may trigger lung cancer even in people who have never smoked. 

As per the data reported at the ESMO Congress 2022 by scientists of the Francis Crick Institute and University College London, the particles, which are typically found in vehicle exhaust and smoke from fossil fuels, are associated with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) risk. This risk in turn accounts for over 250,000 lung cancer deaths every year globally.

Talking along the lines, Charles Swanton, the Francis Crick Institute and Cancer Research UK Chief Clinician, London, UK, said, "The same particles in the air that derive from the combustion of fossil fuels, exacerbating climate change, are directly impacting human health through an important and previously overlooked cancer-causing mechanism in lung cells. The risk of lung cancer from air pollution is lower than from smoking, but we have no control over what we all breathe in and out. Globally, more people are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution than to toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, and these new data link the importance of addressing climate health to improving human health."

Scientists Find How Air Pollution May Trigger Lung Cancer

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The findings of the research were based on human and laboratory research on mutations in a gene called EGFR which are seen in about half of people with lung cancer who have never smoked even a single ciggerate. 

In the study, it was showed that the same pollutant particles promoted rapid changes in the airways cells which had mutations in EGFR and in another gene which were both linked to lung cancer called KRAS. The researchers also found that air pollution drives the influx of macrophages.

The team used state-of-the-art, ultradeep mutational profiling of small samples of normal lung tissue and found EGFR and KRAS driver mutations in 18% and 33% of normal lung samples, respectively in a final series of experiments.

 
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