DOI: 10.1097/ee9.0000000000000265 ISSN: 2474-7882

Additive effects of 10-year exposures to PM2.5 and NO2 and primary cancer incidence in American older adults

Yaguang Wei, Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi, Tszshan Ma, Edgar Castro, Cristina Su Liu, Xinye Qiu, James Healy, Bryan N. Vu, Cuicui Wang, Liuhua Shi, Joel Schwartz
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Epidemiology


Epidemiologic evidence on the relationships between air pollution and the risks of primary cancers other than lung cancer remained largely lacking. We aimed to examine associations of 10-year exposures to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) with risks of breast, prostate, colorectal, and endometrial cancers.


For each cancer, we constructed a separate cohort among the national Medicare beneficiaries during 2000 to 2016. We simultaneously examined the additive associations of six exposures, namely, moving average exposures to PM2.5 and NO2 over the year of diagnosis and previous 2 years, previous 3 to 5 years, and previous 6 to 10 years, with the risk of first cancer diagnosis after 10 years of follow-up, during which there was no cancer diagnosis.


The cohorts included 2.2 to 6.5 million subjects for different cancers. Exposures to PM2.5 and NO2 were associated with increased risks of colorectal and prostate cancers but were not associated with endometrial cancer risk. NO2 was associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer, while the association for PM2.5 remained inconclusive. At exposure levels below the newly updated World Health Organization Air Quality Guideline, we observed substantially larger associations between most exposures and the risks of all cancers, which were translated to hundreds to thousands new cancer cases per year within the cohort per unit increase in each exposure.


These findings suggested substantial cancer burden was associated with exposures to PM2.5 and NO2, emphasizing the urgent need for strategies to mitigate air pollution levels.

More from our Archive