Breast cancers: a new study highlights impact of air pollution

Up to 9 % of breast cancers could be warned, in France, if women were exposed to lower nitrogen dioxide levels at the current threshold recommended by WHO, according to a new study.


Exposure to five air pollutants seems to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer – the most common female cancers, with 58,500 new annual cases and more than 12,000 deaths in mainland France. The five incriminated pollutants are nitrogen dioxide (no 2 ), benzopyrene (BAP), polychlorobiphenyls (PCB) and fine particles PM10 and PM2.5 (in diameter less than 10 and 2 , 5 micrometers, respectively).

These are the latest conclusions of the Xenair study, conducted by the Léon Bérard Center (CLB) and the Cancer Center for Cancer of Lyon and Rhône-Alpes, with the financing of the ARC Foundation. They were announced to the press Monday, October 3, after being presented in August 2021 at the Congress of the issee (International Society for Environmental Epidemiology), in New York.

“In 2013, air pollution as a whole, was classified as certain carcinogenic by the International Center for Research on Cancer [CIR]”, notes Béatrice Fervers, head of the prevention department, cancers and environment of the Léon Bérard Center . But while in 2013, the I Circ had judged the impact of this pollution demonstrated on lung cancers, “it had estimated insufficient data for breast cancers”.

A whole corpus of studies supported the hypothesis of a link between air pollution and breast cancers. In particular, a “meta-analysis” published in May 2021 brought about all of the international publications on the subject (she therefore did not include these new results). This analysis “included 22 studies bringing together more than 120,000 cases of breast cancer. It showed that overall, published studies are in favor of increasing the risk of breast cancer as exposure to nitrogen dioxide increases “Summarizes Professor Rémy Slama, environmental epidemiologist, who coordinated this study conducted by Inserm, CNRS and Grenoble Alpes University. According to the researchers, around 1,700 cases of breast cancer were attributable each year in France to exposure to air pollutants – or around 3 % of cases. 2> 5 pollutants associated with the risk of breast cancer

In the new study, the authors relied on data from the E3N cohort, which has followed nearly 100,000 women (all members of the MGEN), aged 40 to 65 since 1990 during inclusion. This cohort, “due to its workforce and the quality of its follow -up, has the statistical power to study the risk factors for breast cancer”, estimates Rémy Slama.

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