Acid haze air pollution and breast and colon cancer mortality in 20 Canadian cities

Can J Public Health. Mar-Apr 1989;80(2):96-100.


Sulfur dioxide absorbs ultraviolet light in the region of the spectrum which is most active in forming vitamin D on the skin. Sulfate particles reflect light at this wavelength. High concentrations of these pollutants (acid haze) may lead to vitamin D deficiencies in exposed populations. Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence suggests that vitamin D plays a role in reducing risk of colon and breast cancer. We examined the association between sulfur dioxide and ultraviolet-light-blocking aerosols in 20 Canadian cities, and age-adjusted breast and colon cancer mortality rates in the census divisions encompassing these cities. Statistically significant positive associations were found between these two measures of air pollution and age-adjusted mortality rates for colon cancer in women (multiple r = +.74, p = 0.003), and men (multiple r = +.61, p = 0.03), and breast cancer in women (multiple r = +.69, p = 0.007). Mortality rates for all other reported cancer sites were also examined, and no statistically significant positive associations were found consistently in both sexes. The ecological nature of this study is emphasized, and the possibility that an indirect association could explain these findings is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Canada
  • Colonic Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sulfates / toxicity
  • Sulfur Dioxide / toxicity*


  • Aerosols
  • Air Pollutants
  • Sulfates
  • Sulfur Dioxide