Exposure to harmful environmental factors across multiple domains — including air, water and land quality — may increase risk of cancer, suggests new research.
The researchers in the US found that poor environmental quality is particularly strongly linked to prostate and breast cancer cases.
“Our study is the first we are aware of to address the impact of cumulative environmental exposures on cancer incidence,” said one of the researchers Jyotsna Jagai of the University of Illinois, Chicago.
“This work helps support the idea that all of the exposures we experience affect our health, and underscores the potential for social and environmental improvements to positively impact health outcomes,” Jagai said.
Published online in the journal CANCER, the findings may help to reduce the burden of cancer by allowing officials to identify vulnerable communities in need of attention.
To investigate the effects of overall environmental quality across multiple domains, the researchers linked the Environmental Quality Index, a county-level measure of cumulative environmental exposures, with cancer incidence rates.
The average annual county-level incidence rate for all types of cancer was 451 cases per 100,000 people.
Counties with poor environmental quality demonstrated a higher incidence of cancer cases –on average 39 more cases per 100,000 people — than counties with high environmental quality over the study period.
Increased rates were seen for both males and females and prostate and breast cancer demonstrated the strongest positive associations with poor environmental quality, the study said.