The potential health impacts of smog can be far greater than SARS, experts say.
The type of lung cancer reported to increase in Beijing has been linked to deteriorating air quality, with expert warnings that the potential health impact could be far greater than the SARS epidemic in 2003.
“The proportion of pulmonary adenocarcinoma cases is increasing,” **** Ning, deputy director of the Beijing Cancer Prevention and Control Office, added that there was a decline in the proportion of squamous cell lung cancer cases in the capital.
Adenocarcinoma of the lung is a common histological form of lung cancer that contains certain different malignant tissues, while the other type is a form of non-small cell lung cancer.
Medical experts believe that smoking is more likely to cause squamous cell lung cancer, while exposure to air pollution, such as exhaust gas and passive smoking, is more likely to cause lung adenocarcinoma, **** said.
Zhong Nanshan, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and director of the Guangzhou Respiratory Institute, said that without timely intervention, pollution could have a potential health impact far greater than the SARS epidemic.
Zhong also said that severe pollution can result in low birth weight and premature birth.
He said there had been an increase in the number of studies on the relationship between air quality and health, and he referred to an exposure that linked air pollution and traffic smoke with low birth weight.
The study found that for every 10 microgram increase in PM2.5 per cubic meter, the incidence of preterm birth increased by 3 to 5 percent, while the average birth weight was reduced by 8.9 grams.
PM2.5 particles are air pollutants with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less, small enough to attack the smallest airways.
Some public health experts have estimated that in the next five to seven years, China will see a substantial increase in diseases including lung cancer and cardiovascular conditions, Zhong said.
****’s findings on cancer resulted from a study he led published in the Chinese Journal of Preventive Medicine in March 2011. **** and his colleagues examined cases of lung cancer diagnosed at Beijing hospitals from 1998 to 2007.
“Of the cases of city lung cancer diagnosed histologically, the proportion of squamous cell lung cancer decreased every year from 30.41 percent in 1998 to 24.16 percent. Meanwhile, the proportion of pulmonary adenocarcinoma increased from 42.83 percent to 46, 80 percent, “the study found.
The International Agency for Cancer Research, under the World Health Organization, also links lung cancer to air pollution.
In October 2013, IARC said that outdoor air pollution is the main cause of cancer in the environment.
“After a careful review of the latest available scientific literature, the world’s leading experts, held by the IARC, say there is sufficient evidence that exposure to outside air pollution causes lung cancer,” the agency said.
Beijing hospitals have reported an increase in patients seeking treatment for respiratory problems since the haze fell to the capital seven days ago.
Zhao Hongmei, a respiratory medicine doctor at Beijing’s Bo’ai Hospital, said his department was overwhelmed by patients.
“Usually, a doctor in my department sees 40 to 50 patients every morning. Now, the number has risen to 70,” he said. “We have been working full capacity since the Spring Festival.”
He said the number of patients in their 30s and 40s had risen sharply since the smog arrived.
“Most show symptoms such as coughing and discomfort in the throat, but X-rays show their lungs are not infected.”
Zhou Jipu, a doctor in the respiratory department at Beijing’s Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, said he had seen an increase in elderly patients with underlying diseases in his department since the Spring Festival,