You may want to rethink moving to a green neighbourhood as a recent study has linked poor environmental quality to elevated cancer rates.
The study revealed an association between cumulative exposure to harmful environmental factors and cancer incidence across the United States, with prostate and breast cancer especially demonstrating strong links with poor environmental quality, 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, including air, water and land quality; socio-demographic environment; and built environment, Jyotsna S Jagai of the University of Illinois, Chicago and her colleagues linked the Environmental Quality Index, a county-level measure of cumulative environmental exposures, with cancer incidence rates from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program State Cancer Profiles.
The average annual county-level age-adjusted 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.
“Our study is the first we are aware of to address the impact of cumulative environmental exposures on cancer incidence,” said Jagai. “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 noted that research has traditionally focused on individual environmental exposures, which is important for understanding specific mechanisms that can cause disease; however, cancer development is dependent on the totality of exposures people face, including social stressors. “Therefore, we must consider the overall environment that one is exposed to in order to understand the potential risk for cancer development,” she said.
The study is published online in CANCER.
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