Atmospheric pollution and lung cancer

Environ Health Perspect. 1978 Feb;22:23-31. doi: 10.1289/ehp.782223.


Lung cancer is consistently more common in urban areas than in rural. The excess cannot be accounted for by specific occupational hazards but some of it might be due to the presence of carcinogens in urban air. The excess cannot be wholly due to such agents, because the excess in nonsmokers is small and variable. Cigarette consumption has also been greater in urban areas, but it is difficult to estimate how much of the excess it can account for. Occupational studies confirm that pollutants present in town air are capable of causing lung cancer in man and suggest that the pollutants and cigarette smoke act synergistically. The trends in the mortality from lung cancer in young and middle-aged men in England and Wales provide uncertain evidence but support the belief that atmospheric pollution has contributed to the production of the disease. In the absence of cigarette smoking, the combined effect of all atmospheric carcinogens is not responsible for more than about 5 cases of lung cancer per 100,000 persons per year in European populations.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Air Pollution*
  • Carcinogens
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Smoking
  • United Kingdom
  • Urban Population


  • Air Pollutants
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Carcinogens