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Indoor pollution increases risk of lung cancer


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Indoor Air Pollution Heightens Lung Cancer Risk

Reuters Health Information 2005. © 2005 Reuters Ltd.

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By Will Boggs, MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Aug 18 - While uncommon in developed nations, heating and cooking indoors with solid fuels contributes to an increased risk of developing lung cancer, according to the results of a multicenter study.

"High levels of indoor air pollution, which however are unlikely to occur today in industrialized countries, may contribute to lung cancer risk," Dr. Jolanta Lissowska told Reuters Health. "This effect, however, is small compared to that of tobacco smoking."

In the August 15th American Journal of Epidemiology, Dr. Lissowska, from Cancer Center and M. Sklodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology in Warsaw, Poland, and colleagues report the results of a large case-control study to evaluate the contribution of combustion fumes from cooking and heating at home to the development of lung cancer.

Ever having used solid fuel for cooking or heating increased the odds of lung cancer by 22%, the authors report, compared with never using solid fuel for cooking or heating.

The risk for lung cancer increased with increasing time that solid fuel was used for cooking or heating, the report indicates. After adjustments were made for the time solid fuel was used for cooking or heating, the effect of heating with solid fuel on lung cancer risk disappeared, the researchers note, while the effect of cooking with solid fuel increased slightly.

Those who used solid fuels for cooking throughout their lives faced an 80% higher risk of getting lung cancer, the investigators report, compared with a 16% increase among those who had switched to modern fuels.

"Our data suggest a modestly increased risk of lung cancer related to solid-fuel burning in the home, possibly due to cooking rather than heating," the authors conclude. "Shifts to higher quality, low-emission fuels, such as kerosene, gas, or electricity, reduced the health impact of household use of solid fuel."

"IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) has just completed a study of lung cancer in several locations of India, aiming to replicate the results of our investigation," Dr. Lissowska said. "Other projects are underway under the coordination of IARC."

Am J Epidemiol 2005;162:326-333.

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I wonder what they mean by "solid fuels". Do they mean cooking in a fireplace with wood? Would that include burning wood in a fireplace? Do they mean an oil stove? or coal?

Donna G

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