Exposure to five air pollutants does indeed seem to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer – the most frequent female cancer, with 58,500 new cases annually and more than 12,000 deaths in metropolitan France. The five pollutants in question are nitrogen dioxide (NO2), benzopyrene (BaP), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and PM10 and PM2.5 fine particles (with a diameter of 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 Lyon and Rhône-Alpes Cancer Center, with funding from the ARC Foundation. They were announced to the press on Monday October 3, after being presented in August 2021 at the congress of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE), in New York.
“In 2013, air pollution as a whole was classified as a definite carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer [CIRC] “says Béatrice Fervers, head of the prevention, cancer and environment department of the Center Léon-Bérard. But while in 2013 the IARC judged the impact of this pollution demonstrated on lung cancer, “he had considered the data insufficient for breast cancer”.
A whole body of studies has supported the hypothesis of a link between air pollution and breast cancer. In particular, a “meta-analysis” published in May 2021 took stock of all the international publications on the subject (it therefore did not include these new results). This analysis “included 22 studies involving more than 120,000 cases of breast cancer. It showed that, overall, the published studies support an increased risk of breast cancer as exposure to nitrogen dioxide increases.”, summarizes Professor Rémy Slama, environmental epidemiologist, who coordinated this study carried out by Inserm, the CNRS and the University of Grenoble-Alpes. According to the researchers, about 1,700 cases of breast cancer were attributable each year in France to exposure to air pollutants – or about 3% of cases.
Five pollutants linked to breast cancer risk
In the new study, the authors relied on data from the E3N cohort, which has been following nearly 100,000 women since 1990 (all MGEN members), aged 40 to 65 at 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”believes Rémy Slama.
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