Air pollution can cause cancer of the neck, especially the throat. Throat is also known as pharynx. Outdoor air pollution is extremely dangerous and is classified as a Category I human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO). Air pollution increases the risk of not only lung and head cancer, but also neck cancer. Neck cancers are cancers that can occur in the squamous cells lining the mucosal surfaces of the neck, including the oral cavity, throat or pharynx, and the voice box or larynx.
Squamous cells are thin cells that look like fish scales, found in the tissues that line the surface of the skin, the respiratory and digestive tracts, and the hollow organs of the body.
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How air pollution increases the risk of neck cancer, especially throat cancer
The reason air pollution increases the risk of neck cancer is that pollutants have genotoxic and mutagenic effects on DNA. It is a driver of cancer development. In Asia, there has been an increase in cancers of the upper respiratory tract.
Polluted air contains chemicals that damage DNA and cause protein adducts, which form when a chemical binds to a biological molecule.
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There are several examples in which persistent DNA or protein damage, including DNA adducts or protein adducts, have been found in human populations in polluted areas and have been linked to cancer.
Some DNA adducts can result in genetic mutation and cellular carcinogenesis, and have been linked to tumor formation.
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Inflammation, immune responses, and oxidative stress
According to a study published in October 2014 in the Chinese Journal of Cancer, cancer can develop if particles present in pollutants induce physiological reactions or immune responses such as chronic inflammation and oxidative stress in the upper aerodigestive tract.
According to Penn Medicine, cells in the throat and neck area become damaged as a result of prolonged exposure to harmful pollutants. This raises concerns about potential long-term health effects.
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Long-term exposure to PM2.5 increases risk of larynx cancer
According to a March 2023 study published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research, people who were exposed to long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides, or PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter) The risk increases. Of larynx cancer.
Particulate matter increases the risk of cancer because it contains polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and when these substances are present on human cell-absorbed PM2.5, intracellular biochemical metabolism activates polyaromatic hydrocarbons to produce reactive oxygen species. Does.
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Industrial emissions and vehicle exhaust are airborne carcinogens.
According to experts, breathing polluted air is akin to breathing an enemy due to the presence of airborne carcinogens. This is because the air is filled with pollutants from industrial emissions and vehicle smoke, which damage the delicate tissues of the throat and other areas of the neck.
“From industrial emissions to vehicle exhaust fumes, the inhalation of these toxins poses a direct threat to the delicate tissues of the throat and neck, potentially triggering the development of cancer.” Dr Sajjan Rajpurohit, senior director of medical oncology at BLK-Max Cancer Centre, Delhi, told ABP Live.
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The longer the exposure to particulate matter, the greater the chance of neck cancer. Therefore, air quality management is of utmost importance.
“There is an association between long-term exposure to fine particles and increased susceptibility to neck cancer. Air quality management is very important,” Dr Rajpurohit said. he called Particulate matter and its hazards are a “micro hazard.”
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Pesticides and heavy metals result in genetic mutations
Pesticides and heavy metals are some of the environmental toxins that cause genetic mutations and cellular abnormalities in the throat and neck areas, acting as “silent destroyers”. Dr Rajpurohit said.
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Some substances may act as co-carcinogens
Fine particulate matter or PM2.5, and volatile organic compounds are carcinogenic agents that are present in polluted air, can enter the respiratory tract, and reach other tissues of the throat and neck. Some compounds also act as co-carcinogens, enhancing the effects of other carcinogenic agents.
“Carcinogenic agents present in polluted air, such as fine particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, can enter the respiratory tract, reaching the tissues of the throat and neck. Long-term exposure to these pollutants causes inflammation and oxidative stress, which promote DNA damage and mutations that can lead to cancer. Additionally, some pollutants can act as co-carcinogens, enhancing the effects of other carcinogens. It is important to raise awareness of the link between pollution and throat and neck cancer and to emphasize the importance of environmental measures to reduce these risks.” Dr Pratik Varshney, Director and Unit Head, Surgical Oncology, Fortis Hospital Shalimar Bagh, told ABP Live.
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Who is most at risk of neck cancer caused by air pollution?
Children, the elderly, and people with high blood pressure are most susceptible to neck cancer due to air pollution.
Air pollution makes children more vulnerable to neck cancer because their respiratory system is still developing. Dr Rajpurohit said.
“People age 65 and older and those with diabetes and high blood pressure have a higher risk of cancer due to air pollution.” Dr Vineet Kaul, Associate Consultant, The Oncology Centre, CK Birla Hospital Gurugram, told ABP Live.
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Risk factors, and how to reduce the risk of developing throat cancer
Risk factors for throat cancer include persistent irritation in the throat, dry cough, and difficulty swallowing.
According to Dr. Kaul, to reduce the risk of throat cancer, one should use air pollution masks, indoor air purifiers and drink water continuously to keep the throat moist.
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Green initiatives and policies that prioritize air quality are important to reduce the risk of throat and other neck cancers. According to Dr. Rajpurohit.
It is the collective responsibility of the society to reduce air pollution and the dangers posed by it.
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