Taiwan researchers link air pollution to liver cancer

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TAIPEI: A scientific team from Taiwan recently discovered that long-term exposure to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) may promote liver cancer through chronic inflammation, according to Academia Sinica on January 5.

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Conducted by researchers from AS, National Cheng Kung University, National Health Research Institutes, National Taiwan University and National Yang-Ming University, the study was published online November 11, 2015, in Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“This is the first paper in the world to establish the association between liver cancer incidence and tiny particles in the air that are 2.5 microns or less,” said Yang Hwai-i, the paper’s corresponding author and an associate research fellow at AS Genomics Research Center.

“While it is widely known that PM 2.5 contributes to heart and lung diseases, our findings provide more evidence to the health hazards of such pollutants.”

According to Yang, the study began in 1991 and involved 23,820 individuals aged 30 and above in Taiwan with no prior history of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer.

After a median follow-up of 16.9 years, the team reported 464 newly diagnosed liver cancer cases among the participants. The researchers identified statistically significant rising trends between PM 2.5 exposures and the levels of alanine aminotransferase, a type of enzyme widely used to measure liver health.

In addition, the findings showed that an increase of 13.1 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meters enhances the risk of developing liver cancer by 22 percent among people on Taiwan proper.

Research by NTU College of Public Health last month also connected tuberculosis with PM 2.5, showing a 39 percent rise in TB incidence with an increase of 10 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meters. The NTU team attributed 6,000 deaths in Taiwan to PM 2.5 last year.

TAIWAN TODAY

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