Long-term ambient fine particulate matter air pollution and lung cancer in a large cohort of never-smokers

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011 Dec 15;184(12):1374-81. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201106-1011OC. Epub 2011 Oct 6.


Rationale: There is compelling evidence that acute and chronic exposure to ambient fine particulate matter (PM(2.5)) air pollution increases cardiopulmonary mortality. However, the role of PM(2.5) in the etiology of lung cancer is less clear, particularly at concentrations that prevail in developed countries and in never-smokers.

Objectives: This study examined the association between mean long-term ambient PM(2.5) concentrations and lung cancer mortality among 188,699 lifelong never-smokers drawn from the nearly 1.2 million Cancer Prevention Study-II participants enrolled by the American Cancer Society in 1982 and followed prospectively through 2008.

Methods: Mean metropolitan statistical area PM(2.5) concentrations were determined for each participant based on central monitoring data. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate multivariate adjusted hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for lung cancer mortality in relation to PM(2.5).

Measurements and main results: A total of 1,100 lung cancer deaths were observed during the 26-year follow-up period. Each 10 μg/m(3) increase in PM(2.5) concentrations was associated with a 15-27% increase in lung cancer mortality. The association between PM(2.5) and lung cancer mortality was similar in men and women and across categories of attained age and educational attainment, but was stronger in those with a normal body mass index and a history of chronic lung disease at enrollment (P < 0.05).

Conclusions: The present findings strengthen the evidence that ambient concentrations of PM(2.5) measured in recent decades are associated with small but measurable increases in lung cancer mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Particle Size
  • Particulate Matter / adverse effects*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Particulate Matter