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Scientists discover how air pollution triggers lung cancer in never-smokers

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Research by UCL and Francis Crick A new study led by the Institute for the first time has shown how air pollution contributes to lung cancer in people who have never smoked.

Study found that exposure to tiny pollutant particles 3% the width of a human hair, called PM2.5, promotes lung growth of cells harboring oncogenic mutations.

Studying data from more than 400,000 people, scientists have also found evidence of other types of cancer in areas with higher PM2.5 levels The incidence is higher. They speculate that air pollution can promote the growth of cells carrying cancer-causing mutations in other parts of the body.

Professor Charles Swanton (UCL Cancer Institute and Francis Crick Institute) in September Presented at the ESMO Congress on the 10th. The research is part of the TRACERx Lung Study, which aims to understand how lung cancer begins and evolves over time in hopes of finding new treatments for the disease.

In the UK, an estimated 6,000 people who never smoke die each year from lung cancer, some of which may be due to air pollution exposure . Globally, approximately 300,000 lung cancer deaths in 2019 were attributed to exposure to PM2.5.

Professor Charles Swanton said: “Our study fundamentally changes our understanding of lung cancer in never smokers. View.

“Cells with cancer-causing mutations naturally accumulate with age, but they are generally inactive. We have shown that air pollution awakens these cells in the lungs, encouraging them to grow and possibly form tumors.

” The mechanisms we’ve identified could ultimately help us find better ways to prevent and treat lung cancer in never-smokers If we can stop cells from growing due to air pollution, we can reduce the risk of lung cancer.”

Air pollution and A variety of health problems, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and dementia. But how it causes cancer in people who have never smoked has so far been a mystery.

Many environmental factors, such as UV light and tobacco smoke, can damage the structure of DNA, creating mutations that allow cancer to start and grow. But there was no evidence that air pollution directly mutated DNA, so scientists looked for a different explanation.

They studied the theory that PM2.5 causes inflammation in the lungs, which can lead to cancer. Inflammation awakens normally inactive cells in the lungs that carry cancer-causing mutations. A combination of oncogenic mutations and inflammation can trigger these cells to grow uncontrollably and form tumors.

Scientists examined a type of lung cancer called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutant lung cancer. EGFR gene mutations are commonly found in lung cancer in people who have never smoked.

They examined data from more than 400,000 people in the UK and Asian countries, comparing rates of EGFR-mutant lung cancer across regions level of PM2.5 pollution. They found that people living in areas with higher levels of PM2.5 pollution had higher rates of EGFR-mutant lung cancer, as well as other types of cancer.

Co-first author Dr Emilia Lim (UCL Cancer Institute and Francis Crick Institute) said: ” According to our analysis, increasing air pollution levels increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and cancer of the mouth and throat. This finding suggests that cancers caused by inflammation caused by carcinogens such as air pollution have a broader role.

“Even small changes in air pollution levels can affect human health. 99% of the world’s population lives in areas that exceed WHO’s annual PM2.5 limit, underscoring the public health challenges posed by global air pollution. “

The team then exposed mice with EGFR-mutated cells in their lungs to normal levels of air pollution in cities. They found that cancer was more likely to start in cells with EGFR mutations than in those with EGFR mutations. Mice not exposed to air pollution. The researchers showed that blocking a molecule called IL-1β, The molecule, which normally causes inflammation and is released upon PM2.5 exposure, prevented cancer from developing in these mice.

London Dr Kevin Litchfield, team leader at the University College Cancer Institute, said: “This is an extensive study based on more than 400,000 people, PM2.5 air pollution levels measured over a 10-year period and subsequent cancer diagnoses. It demonstrated a clear link between air pollution and an increased risk of multiple tumor types, including lung cancer.

“Our work highlights the importance of air pollution control measures, as well as for future efforts to prevent disease, it Reveals the biology of how air pollution increases cancer risk.”

The research team believes that the model proposed in their study may is responsible for the early stages of many different types of cancer, in which environmental triggers awaken cells that carry cancer-causing mutations in different parts of the body.

The abstract titled “Promoting Effects of Air Pollutants on Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer” was published on September 2 at Presented at ESMO Congress. 10.

More information: LBA1′ Mechanisms of Action and Actionable Inflammation Axis of Air Pollution by Charles Swanton on Saturday, Sept. 10 EST 16:30 to 18:00 Presentation on n-small cell lung cancer in never-smokers at the 1st Presidential Symposium in the Paris Auditorium. Annals of Oncology, Volume 33 Supplement 7, September 2022.

Citation : How Air Pollution Can Cause Lung Cancer in Non-Smokers (September 10, 2022), September 2022 Retrieved on the 22nd from

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