Health: Air pollution link to lung cancer

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The Independent Online
Air pollution and lung cancer incidence are strongly linked, according to Italian researchers who used lichen as biological monitoring stations. They studied the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy, home to four million people, and compared the effect of pollution on lichen biodiversity with mortality data. Lichens are sensitive to pollutants, which limit their growth and diversity.

Pier Luigi Nimis and colleagues from the universities of Milan and Trieste drew a map showing the areas of highest pollution, and cross-referenced it with disease statistics. In a letter today in the science journal Nature, they note that this showed a clear link between pollution levels and the incidence of cancer in young men.

The results disclosed no pattern linking air pollution to other cancers or with lung cancer in women. But lichen biodiversity and lung cancer in men aged under 55 was "highly correlated".

The study was based on 2,425 measurements of biodiversity - the frequency of different species - at 662 points.