There is a link between exposure to traffic pollution during pregnancy and risk of childhood cancer, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, found that women who were exposed to high levels of traffic pollution (emissions from cars and trucks) while they were pregnant also had higher risks of their children going on to develop pediatric cancers, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia and retinoblastoma.
Because the risk was increased with higher traffic pollution exposure regardless of the mother's pregnancy trimester -- and even going into the child's first year of life -- researchers were not able to tease out if there is a particular trimester where air pollution has the worst effect on cancer risk.
"Much less is known about exposure to pollution and childhood cancer than adult cancers," study researcher Julia Heck, assistant researcher in the department of epidemiology at UCLA, said in a statement. "Our innovation in this study was looking at other more rare types of childhood cancer, such as retinoblastoma, and their possible connection to traffic-related air pollution."
The study included 3,950 children born between 1998 and 2007 who were part of the California Cancer Registry. All children could be linked with a birth certificate for California, and all were diagnosed with cancer for the first time before reaching age 5.
Researchers estimated how much traffic pollution the children's mothers were exposed to during their pregnancy and while the child was an infant (the first year of life), judging on traffic volume, emission rates and other factors.
They found that the more the traffic pollution exposure increased, the higher the child's risk was of having acute lymphoblastic leukemia, retinoblastoma (with more cases affecting both eyes instead of just one), and germ cell tumors.
"It would be interesting to determine if there are specific pollutants like benzene or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are driving these associations," Heck said in a statement.
Because the cancers in the study are rare, the researchers said more work is needed to confirm the findings. Also, it's important to note that the study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and thus the results should be considered preliminary.
But still, this is hardly the first time air pollution has been linked with cancer risk. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine showed that living in a highly air-polluted area raises your death risk from lung cancer by 20 percent, compared with living in a less-polluted area. And in 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency released data showing that people who live in certain neighborhoods may have a higher risk of cancer because of higher concentrations of toxic chemicals in the air.
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Women's Mental Health
A study published last year in the <em>Journal Of Health Economics</em> showed that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/24/commute-womens-health_n_935361.html" target="_hplink">women's mental health</a> is affected more than men's by a daily work commute. The study included data from the British Household Panel Survey, which found that women who had kids of preschool age also a fourfold increased risk of experiencing stress from their commute than men. <br><br> "We know that women, especially those with children, are more likely to add daily errands to their commute, such as food shopping and dropping off and picking up children from childcare," study researcher Dr. Jennifer Roberts, of the University of Sheffield, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/aug/22/communting-more-stressful-women-men" target="_hplink">told <em>The Guardian</em></a>. "These time constraints and the reduced flexibility that comes with them make commuting stressful in a way that it wouldn't be otherwise."
Exhaustion And Less Sleep
A 2011 study in the journal <em>BMC Public Health</em> showed that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/31/commute-health-car-bus_n_1067503.html" target="_hplink">commuting by car, subway or bus</a> is linked with extra stress, exhaustion, poor sleep and even more missed days from work. <br><br> The study involved commute and health data from 21,000 people ages 18 to 65 who live in Sweden and work full-time. People who traveled via a vehicle to work were more likely to have health complaints than people who walked or biked to work, the researchers found.
Heart Attack From Traffic Pollution
A study in the <em>British Medical Journal</em> showed that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/22/traffic-heart-attack-pollution_n_974668.html" target="_hplink">breathing in the fumes from heavy traffic</a> can hike up your risk of heart attack for the following six hours. <br><br> The good news is the heart attack risk goes down gradually after that time frame. Researchers said it's not that the air pollution causes people to have heart attacks who wouldn't otherwise have them, but rather could <a href="http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/234784.php" target="_hplink">hasten heart attacks</a> in people who would have had one anyway, Medical News Today reported. <br><br> That study included 79,288 people in the United Kingdom who had had a heart attack between 2003 and 2006. Researchers looked at the time of day of their heart attacks, and also looked at traffic pollution in different parts of the UK.
People whose commutes are longer than 15 miles in distance are also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/09/work-commute-overweight-health-blood-pressure_n_1500459.html" target="_hplink">more likely to weigh more</a>, according to research from Washington University in St. Louis. <br><br> The <a href="http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/authored_newsitem.cws_home/companynews05_02321" target="_hplink"><em>American Journal of Preventive Medicine</em> study</a> showed that people have to travel that distance every day to go to work are also less likely to fulfill exercise recommendations. They also found that people traveling more than 10 miles a day to go to work are more likely to have hypertension. <br><br> "It could just be a function of having less discretionary time to be physically active," study researcher Christine M. Hoehner, Ph.D., MSPH, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/commuting-drives-weight-blood-pressure/story?id=16294712#.T6lCHp9Ytvc" target="_hplink">told ABC News</a>. "Or it could be related to people burning fewer calories because they're sitting longer."
Increased Risk Of Divorce
Swedish researchers from Umea University have found a link between <a href="http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=104021&CultureCode=en" target="_hplink">long commute times and divorce</a>. <br><br> The researchers found that couples who have to commute long distances have a 40 percent higher risk of divorcing than other people. Their findings are based on 2 million people in Sweden who were either married or living together, analyzed between 1995 and 2005. <br><br> The researchers found that it's the first few years of traveling long distance for work that is particularly hard on couples.
Is A Deterrent To Friend Time
A 2008 study in the <em>American Journal of Preventive Medicine</em> shows that the length of distance you have to travel could actually influence whether you <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18312808" target="_hplink">participate in social activities</a>. <br><br> The study included data from the 2001 National Household Travel Survey, which looked at commute times and the social nature of the trips. "Socially-oriented" trips included those to see friends or family; for entertainment purposes; to go to a wedding, funeral or other event; to go exercise or play sports; to go to school or a religious event; to take someone somewhere; to go to a meeting for an organization; to attend to an obligation; and to just do something fun (recreational). <br><br> The researchers found that if a person's commute time was going to be longer than 20 minutes -- and especially if it was longer than 90 minutes -- the likelihood of the person <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18312808" target="_hplink">participating in the social event</a> decreased.
A study by Hewlett Packard showed that commuting can <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4052861.stm" target="_hplink">raise stress even higher</a> than that of people who work as police officers and fighter pilots, BBC News reported. <br><br> "The difference is that a riot policeman or a combat pilot have things they can do to combat the stress that is being triggered by the event ... but the commuter, particularly on a train, cannot do anything about it at all," study researcher Dr. David Lewis, of the International Stress Management Association <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4052861.stm" target="_hplink">told BBC News</a>. "So it is this sense of helplessness combined with the stress that is perhaps the most worrying aspect of it." <br><br> The researchers examined the heart rates of study participants after commuting during peak hours, and found that their heart rates were a lot higher than the "at rest" rate, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/nov/30/research.transport" target="_hplink"><em>The Guardian</em> reported</a>.
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