Combined analyses of the environmental risk factors for Lung Cancer in British Columbia and the resulting burden from particulate air pollution, arsenic and radon exposures

Every year, approximately 2,200 British Columbians die of lung cancer and an additional 2,700 are diagnosed with the disease. While tobacco smoke is the primary cause of lung cancer in BC, approximately 25 per cent of lung cancer cases are not attributable to smoking. In fact, lung cancer in non-smokers accounts for the seventh leading cause of cancer death. Studies have found that environmental factors increase the risk of lung cancer in both smokers and non-smokers, including exposure to particulate air pollution, residential radon (a radioactive gas that leeches from soil and building materials), and arsenic in drinking water. These three exposures are widespread throughout BC and affect a large percentage of the population. However, no study has been conducted that determines how many, where and to what levels the BC population is exposed to these environmental carcinogens, or the risks posed to lung cancer development and the resulting burden on lung cancer in BC. Perry Hystad is creating current and historical provincial exposure models for particulate air pollution, radon and arsenic. These results are linked with provincial lung cancer data collected by the National Enhanced Cancer Surveillance System. His research will include exposure assessment, epidemiological analysis and burden of disease calculations. Hystad’s findings will shed light on the risks posed by these environmental carcinogens across BC. Ultimately, this work could help identify potentially susceptible populations and contribute to the development of prevention measures.