Scientists uncover link between car fumes and lung cancer that helps explain why so many non-smokers develop disease
Scientists have uncovered how air pollution causes lung cancer in groundbreaking research that promises to rewrite our understanding of the disease.
The findings outline how fine particulates contained in car fumes “awaken” dormant mutations in lung cells and tip them into a cancerous state. The work helps explain why so many non-smokers develop lung cancer and is a “wake-up call” about the damaging impact of pollution on human health.
“The risk of lung cancer from air pollution is lower than from smoking, but we have no control over what we all breathe,” said Prof Charles Swanton of the Francis Crick Institute and University College London, who presented the findings at the European Society for Medical Oncology conference in Paris on Saturday.
“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.”
Smoking remains the biggest cause of lung cancer, but outdoor air pollution causes about one in 10 cases in the UK, and an estimated 6,000 people who have never smoked die of lung cancer every year. Globally, about 300,000 lung cancer deaths in 2019 were attributed to exposure to fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, contained in air pollution.