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Is Air Pollution Responsible For The Rise In Male Breast Cancer?

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Since the 1970s, male breast cancer cases have risen from 0.86 cases per 100,000 men to 1.2. Deaths relating to air pollution are rising too. Vox reports that there were almost 10,000 more deaths caused by air pollution in 2018 than there were in 2016. This, therefore, highlights the serious impact that air pollution has on the nation’s health. But most importantly, it begs the question: is air pollution contributing to the growing number of males being diagnosed with breast cancer?

Is outdoor air pollution to blame?

Studies have found a link between outdoor air pollution caused by traffic and breast cancer. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in particular are believed to play a role in the development of breast cancer, although this link hasn’t yet been studied in male breast cancer patients. It does, however, explain the growing number of male breast cancer rates over the past few decades. In 1970, there were around 200 million cars on the world’s roads, but this number now sits at 1.4 billion. With a new diesel vehicle capable of emitting up to 800mg/km of nitrogen oxides, the excess air pollution that males have been subjected to over the past few decades could certainly have put them at greater risk of developing breast cancer.

Pollutants in the home

Air pollution in the home can be just as bad as outdoor air pollution and could have a part to play in the increase in male breast cancer. One of the worst pollutants in the home is black mold, as it releases mycotoxins into the air. Mycotoxins have been linked to multiple health complications and there is evidence linking it back to breast cancer. One study on rodents found that Ochratoxin A Mycotoxin causes genetic damage that directly leads to breast cancer. This evidence highlights the importance of being able to recognize and treat black mold with systems such as anti-microbial sealants and HEPA vacuums to prevent men from being exposed to high levels of mycotoxins in their own homes.

Increased risk

Air pollution is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ and is known to shave almost three years off someone’s life expectancy. These figures show that it takes decades for air pollution to truly make its mark on someone’s health. This ties in with research that shows that the average age a male is diagnosed with breast cancer is 64. In fact, just 15% of males with the disease receive a diagnosis before their 50th birthday. It’s therefore fair to conclude that a lifetime of being exposed to highly polluted air both in and out of the home is a risk factor for breast cancer among male members of the population.

Male breast cancer rates are steadily rising, and evidence suggests that this could be a direct result of air pollution. For this reason, it’s important that men do all they can to avoid heavily polluted air as much as possible. Meanwhile, governing bodies need to continue to take steps to tackle air pollution in order to prevent male breast cancer rates from climbing further.

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