Cancer: A risk factor for lung cancer is rising, it’s not smoking and it affects us all

Researchers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have compared the global trends for lung cancer, smoking, and air pollution.

As fewer people use tobacco products the rates of Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a cancer that forms in the airways, has gone down. Across the same time period, the rise in pollution has seen an increase in adenocarcinomas. These types of cancers form in the glandular cells around the edges of the lungs, rather than in the airways.

Across the study’s timeframe of 1990 to 2012, a six percent decline in smoking was observed. This reduction in tobacco consumption saw a significant decrease in the prevalence of smoking-related cancers. For each percentage point decline in smoking a nine percent decrease in lung squamous cell carcinoma was found.

Lung cancer remains one of the most common types of cancer, alongside breast cancer and prostate cancer. The study tied a 0.1 microgram per cubic metre increase in soot levels to a 12% increase in lung adenocarcinomas.

This effect is worldwide, and the amount of this pollutant has increased by 3.6 micrograms per cubic metre across the study’s timeframe, 1990-2012. Soot is a by-product of combustion, formed when fossil fuels are not burned completely.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition notes that it is a short lived pollutant, that only remains in the atmosphere for a few weeks.