Summary: Researchers have found that inactive cancer-causing mutations that accumulate naturally can be “woken up” by air pollution enabling them to grow and potentially form tumours.
Why this is important: Ambient air pollution is estimated to lower life expectancy by up to 3.5 years - more than from tobacco smoking.
The big theme: There are two links with investing activity, the first is around the longer-term drive to reduce air pollution, including PM2.5 and ultimately improve life expectancy and the other relates to repurposing of existing drugs, to help solve new challenges in an unexpected way.
Scientists from the Francis Crick Institute and UCL, led by Cancer Research UK Chief Clinician Professor Charles Swanton, have revealed how air pollution can cause lung cancer in people who have never smoked. The study examined data from more than 400,000 people and found higher rates of other types of cancers in areas with high levels of fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5.
Globally, about 300,000 lung cancer deaths in 2019 were attributed to exposure to PM2.5 and it is estimated that 1 in 10 cases of lung cancer in the UK are caused by outdoor air pollution.