Nanoparticles which are a product of air pollution have been linked with causing brain cancer for the first time.
Fuel burning, especially in diesel vehicles, produce ultra-fine particles (UFPs). High exposure to these particles massively increases the chances of getting brain cancer. Previous studies had shown that these nanoparticles are able to travel into the brain whilst carrying carcinogenic chemicals.
For example, if you were to live on a quiet city street and then move to a busy one, the odds of getting brain cancer increase to one extra case in every 100,000 people that comes into contact with the ultra-fine particles. This shows that the risks of air pollution are not large in terms of one person, however if there is a large population which is exposed to the air pollution then it can lead to a lot of cases of brain cancer. Therefore, in a large city with millions of people living in it the increase in diagnosis’s would be notable. This is especially bad with brain cancer due to how fatal the disease can be.
A one-year increase in exposure to the ultra-fine nanoparticles by 10,000 particles per cubic centimetre increases the chances of getting brain cancer by more than 10%. The increased exposure is similar to that of moving from a quiet city street to a busy one.
The research was conducted on the pollution and medical records of 1.9million Canadian adults, with data starting in 1991 and finishing at 2016. Due to the sheer size of this study it proves a strong link between the two and not just a coincidence. Scott Weichenthal who led the study has said that the correlation was ‘surprisingly consistent’ but believes similar studies need to be ran to cement the original findings.
The first study which found the toxic nanoparticles in the brain was completed in 2016, and a comprehensive global review was completed earlier this year which came to the conclusion that air pollution could be causing damage to every organ in the human body and potentially going on to damage almost every cell in the human body.
There have also been other links made with air pollution and the brain. These links include, dementia, mental health issues and declines in intelligence amongst both children and adults. The World Health Organisation has stated that toxic air is a ‘silent public health emergency’.
The two cities that were studied, Montreal and Toronto, had a wide range pollution levels. This ranged from 6000 particles per cubic centimetre squared all the way to 97000 particles per cubic centimetre squared. The study found that if you lived in an area with pollution levels of 50000 particles per cubic centimetre squared you have a 50% increased chance of getting brain cancer than if you were to live in an area with 15000 particles per cubic centimetre squared.
The study by the researchers took into consideration other factors such as obesity, income, smoking and whether people relocated. However, the researchers did believe the nanoparticles found in Montreal and Toronto wouldn’t be any more or any less harmful than those found in other cities.
Professors from other institutions have also agreed with the findings from this study. They to believe that ultra-fine nanoparticles to be a cause of brain cancer due to similar studies that have been ran on animals showing their toxicity and the fact iron rich nanoparticles are very likely to be carcinogenic so it is a plausible conclusion that they increase the risk of getting brain cancer.