Cancer Happens (Or: You Could Be Next)

Categories: News
This photo comes from a Sierra Club report. Yeah, I thought it looked fake too. It's not.

While we're on the subject of reports that proclaim us all doomed, more or less, here's one released late last week from the UT Southwestern Medical Center that says just breathing Dallas' air could give you lung cancer (he types while smugly lighting up a Marlboro). Turns out, there are tiny metallic particles floating around that may be the cause of some 10 to 15 percent of all lung cancer cases that can't be attributed to cigarette smoking. In other words, air pollution's killing us after all--which may be a big no d'uh, but don't tell that to Dr. Yvonne Coyle, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and the study's senior author.

"There is concern that other environmental carcinogens may be interacting with cigarette smoking or alone may be influencing the current trends for lung cancer incidence and mortality," Dr. Coyle says in UT Southwestern's press release. "There is some evidence that metals can interfere with a biochemical process called methylation that inactivates genes that normally suppress tumor growth. "Although the study is not conclusive, it provides new information suggesting that airborne metals, including those that are essential human nutrients, such as zinc and copper, play an important role in lung carcinogenesis."

The study was published Friday in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology and compared lung cancer rates for all 254 Texas counties from 1995 to 2000 with reports companies filed with the Environmental Protection Agency required whenever they released pollution between 1988 and 2000. Researchers discovered that lung cancer rates were highest in counties with the highest level of industrialization: "These counties were primarily located in the Houston area and the contiguous Gulf Coast counties and in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, where there were also higher industrial emissions of zinc, chromium and copper." Yeah, but what about coal? --Robert Wilonsky

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