Correlation of white female breast cancer incidence trends with nitrogen dioxide emission levels and motor vehicle density patterns

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Feb;132(1):327-33. doi: 10.1007/s10549-011-1861-z. Epub 2011 Nov 11.


The long-term trend of female breast cancer incidence rates in the United States and some European countries demonstrates a similar pattern: an increasing trend in the last century followed by a declining trend in this century. The well-known risk factors cannot explain this trend. We compared the breast cancer incidence trends obtained from SEER data with the trend of nitrogen dioxides (NOx) emission and monitoring data as well as motor vehicle density data. The upward followed by downward trend of NOx is similar to the breast cancer incidence trend but with an offset of 20 years earlier. Motor vehicles are the major source of NOx emissions. The geographic distribution of motor vehicles density in 1970 in the observed US counties is positively correlated with breast cancer incidence rates (R(2) 0.8418, the correlation coefficient = 0.9175) in 1980-1995. Because both the time trend and geographic pattern are associated with breast cancer incidence rates, further studies on the relationship between breast cancer and air pollution are needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Automobiles / statistics & numerical data*
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Linear Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / toxicity*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vehicle Emissions / toxicity*
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants
  • Vehicle Emissions
  • Nitrogen Dioxide