Cancer is a potentially lethal disease caused by the development of abnormal cells. One particular type of cancer, oral, affects areas such as the tongue, cheeks, mouth, and lips. Scientists have attributed the causes of this disease to HPV, drinking, smoking, and betel quid. However, a recent study confirms that excessive exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone also play a big role in the development of oral cancer.
People used to believe that many health issues for example dementia, asthma, and change in the structure of the heart is related to a high amount of air pollution. However, the new studies suggest that there is no such safe level for air pollution. A high amount of particles in the air has increased the risk of many diseases by 43%.
Oral cancer is a fatal disease and is spreading all over the world. According to the cancer research in the UK, in the past 20 years rates of oral cancer in Britain has increased to 71%. The risk factors of oral cancer include:
Air pollution was already known to impair physiological functions, primarily within the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Yet in 2009, a team of scientists at the Asia University collected data from 66 Taiwanese air quality monitoring stations and compared it to the documented health data of over 4,80,000 men (age 40+) from 2012-2013.
They discovered 11,617 oral cancer cases, thus proving that a higher exposure to PM2.5s increased the likelihood of acquiring the disease. Less but still ozone increases the risk of oral cancer. The team did not want to comment quickly on the study.
Researchers and Professor Shou-Jen Lan at the Asia University explained it by saying, “The study, with a large sample size, is the first to associate oral cancer with PM2.5. These findings add to the growing evidence on the adverse effects of PM2.5 on oral health.”
The team acknowledged like every study this study also had some limitations, the exact concentration of PM2.5 which entered the mouth of people was unknown. Hence they were not able to give a proper conclusion.
The pollutants measured by the stations included:
• Carbon monoxide
• Nitrogen monoxide
• Sulfur dioxide
• Nitrogen dioxide
In comparison, men who lived in conditions with a PM2.5 concentration of at least 40.37 micrograms/cubic meter had a 43% higher chance of contracting the disease, as opposed to those who were exposed to 26.74 micrograms/cubic meter.
Dr. Mathew Loxha who belongs to the field of respiratory biology and air pollution toxicology in medicine said: “ The new finding here is the association between fine PM exposure and mouth cancer. The fact that is study was done in a sizable population also lends weight to their findings.”
“Although the authors accounted for smoking and betel leaf use, both of which are known to cause cancer, they did not account for the socioeconomic status of the participants, which may also play a role.”
A similar trend was also noted for ozone levels below 28.69-30.97 parts per billion. This study is significant because out of an annual diagnosis of 6,57,000 oral cancer patients around the world, 3,30,000 lost their lives.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is also blamed for causing premature deaths, about 4.2 million every year.