Poor overall environmental quality linked to elevated cancer rates
Poor air quality and factors of the built environment — such as the presence of major highways and the availability of public transit and housing – – were the most strongly associated with high cancer rates, while water quality and land pollution had no measurable effect.
"Most research has focused on single environmental factors like air pollution or toxins in water," said Jyotsna Jagai, research assistant professor of environmental and occupational health in the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and lead author of the study.
Counties with poor environmental quality had higher incidence of cancer–on average, 39 more cases per 100,000 people–than counties with high environmental quality.
The researchers found that high levels of air pollution, poor quality in the built environment and high levels of sociodemographic risk factors were most strongly associated with increased cancer rates in men and women.
The strongest associations were seen in urban areas, especially for the air and built environment domains.
"Some of the counties we looked at were very large, with both urban and rural areas in a single county, so to tease apart the interplay between the measures of quality in our five domains and how they impact urban and rural areas," Jagai said, "we will need to look at geographic areas smaller than counties."
This research was funded in part by contracts EP09D000003 and EP12D000264 from the EPA Office of Research and Development and by an appointment to the Internship/Research Participation Program Office of Research and Development (National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory) of the EPA, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the EPA and the Department of Energy.
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