Inhaled Metal Pollutants Linked to Lung Cancer

Metal particles in air may be another factor in pulmonary malignancy rates

FRIDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Metallic particulates that are commonly released in industrial air pollution, including zinc, chromium and copper, are associated with both primary and non-small cell lung cancer, according to the results of an ecological study published in the September issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.

Yvonne M. Coyle, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and colleagues identified eight industry-generated airborne metals known to be carcinogenic (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, nickel, vanadium, zinc) and analyzed their release with the mean annual lung cancer rates in Texas.

The 13-year study examined 81,132 primary lung cancer cases and 29,648 non-small cell lung cancer cases in Texas. Of the eight metals, zinc was associated with primary and non-small cell cancer rates, and chromium and copper were linked to non-small cell cancers. After interaction terms among the metals were adjusted, zinc remained significantly and consistently associated with cancer rates.

Although not conclusive, the study "provides new information suggesting that metals, including those that are essential human nutrients, such as zinc and copper, play an important role in lung carcinogenesis, for primary lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. As a result, metals may be interacting with cigarette smoking or alone to promote lung cancer incidence," the authors write.

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