Lung Cancer Fostered by Air Pollution Without Mutating DNA

April 28, 2023

Millions of deaths are caused by air pollution globally each year, with more than 250,000 produced by lung adenocarcinoma. 

Experiments in laboratory mice with EGFR mutations, a gene associated with exposure to air pollution, suggest that air pollution could trigger lung cancer growth not by harming DNA, but creating a chronic inflammatory environment that enhances the proliferation of cells with present cancer-inducing mutations. 

“Taken together, the results suggest that air pollution fosters the proliferation of mutated cells that already exist in the lung, potentially as a consequence of DNA errors that accumulate during aging. “The major mechanism by which air pollution causes cancer is not due to the induction of new mutations,” says Allan Balmain, a cancer researcher at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s that sustained inflammation that becomes chronic that is essential to get these mutated cells to grow into tumours.”