According to a recent study (University of Illinois, Chicago, USA), overall environmental quality is strongly associated with cancer risk.
- In the United States, about 25% of deaths are attributable to cancer.
- Both genetics and environmental exposures play a role in cancer risk.
- Consistent exposure to adverse environmental conditions can influence DNA structure and gene function.
- Poor environmental conditions can also give rise to systemic inflammation, and cause endocrine disorders.
In the present study, cancer incidence data between 2006 and 2010 in nearly 2,700 urban, suburban and rural counties across the United States, was collected by the US National Cancer Institute. Information collected between 2000 and 2005 as part of a US Environmental Quality Index (EQI) review was also analyzed. The index graded environmental health on a county-by-county basis. EQI scores collectively tallied more than 200 environmental factors. These included water quality, air quality, exposure to pesticides and contaminants, transportation and housing safety, and exposure to crime.
Higher cancer incidence was significantly associated with poorer overall environmental quality. Although the study did not prove a cause-and-effect link, the researchers found that counties with the lowest EQI scores had 39 more cases of cancer per 100,000 residents each year, compared to the highest-scoring EQI counties. The risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women seemed most susceptible to poor environmental quality. Moreover, residents living in more heavily urbanized communities appeared to be among the most vulnerable to the link between poor environmental conditions and greater cancer risk.