Not Just Lungs, Air Pollution Can Up Neck And Head Cancer Risk

Not Just Lungs, Air Pollution Can Up Neck And Head Cancer Risk

Air pollution in India is rapidly increasing and is a cause of concern. Experts say that it not only elevates the risk of neck cancer but also increases head and neck cancer risk.

The smoggy air that cloaks India contains high levels of toxic pollutants that have been linked to several diseases. Booming industries and rising urbanisation are slowly becoming a reason why most people might succumb to lethal diseases like cancer. Did you know that 80 per cent of urban areas in India are exposed to pollutants that exceed the standard set by WHO? Home to 22 of the most polluted cities, the toxic air in India kills more than a million people every year.

Increasing air pollution is known to cause a number of diseases. The role of air pollution as a causative reason for cancer has been debated for a long time, especially in countries like India with heavy industrialization or urbanization.

Air Pollution May Up Head And Neck Cancer Risk

Dr Prateek Varshney, Director & Unit Head, Surgical Oncology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh said, "WHO's specialized cancer agency the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recently classified outdoor air pollution and particulate matter (PM) as IARC Group 1 carcinogen."

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He further explained that increased levels of air pollution can cause cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract, including lung cancer, head and neck cancer, and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. In addition, cases of breast cancer and bladder cancer have also been linked to outdoor air pollution.

"These cancers have been long recognized as smoking-related. The incidence of lung cancer in non-smoking women is also surging in India and air pollution is likely a key factor. Other head and neck cancers, including oral, laryngeal, and pharyngeal cancers, have also been associated with ambient air pollution," he explained.

Explaining the most prominent causes, Dr Varshney said, "Lifetime exposure to indoor solid fuel (coal and wood) burning increases the risk of head and neck cancers and lung cancer. Because large populations in India depend on solid fuels for cooking and heating, indoor smoke is believed to contribute heavily to cancer. Indeed, exposure to domestic woodfires is associated with a marked increase in the risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer.

Make Efforts To Reduce Air Pollution

"Although it is unclear whether lung and head and neck cancers caused by air pollution are etiologically or genetically similar to those caused by cigarette smoking, every effort should be made to reduce air pollution. The efforts if carried out successfully and cooperatively, will significantly reduce cancer incidence and the related health burdens in India and potentially worldwide," recommends the oncologist.

Here are some ways you can reduce air pollution:

  • Taking public transportation is a sure way to contribute to less air pollution as it will use less gas and energy
  • Reducing the consumption of electricity can help save energy which contributes to air pollution
  • Recycling and reuse not only help to conserve resources and use them wisely, but it also helps to reduce pollution emissions, which is good for the environment.
  • Plastic products may be harmful to the environment because they take a long time to decompose due to their oil-based composition. So, avoid using plastic products.
  • The collection of garbage and setting it ablaze in dry seasons, or dry leaves catching fire, is a major source of air pollution. The smoke produced contributes to air pollution and deterioration of air quality, as well as harming one's health.
  • Air conditioners consume a lot of energy and produce a lot of heat, both of which are harmful to the environment.
  • The gas emitted by fireplaces in homes and factories is extremely dangerous for air pollution and has a significant negative impact on air quality.
  • Sadly, the use of crackers at festivals and weddings is one of the leading causes of air pollution, resulting in a layer of smog that is extremely harmful to one's health. This is the reason why the use of crackers should be avoided.
  • Paints and perfumes, for example, should be used less frequently or outside the house because they contain chemicals.
  • Last but not least, make a concerted effort to plant and grow as many trees as possible. The practice of planting trees has numerous environmental benefits and aids in the release of oxygen.

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