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Air pollution cancer clues

UK scientists believe, after experiments in both humans and animals, that air pollution can cause cancer by ‘waking up’ old damaged cells.

Researchers from the Francis Crick Institute, London, discovered that breathing an air pollutant called PM2.5, can lead to the release of interleukin-1-beta in the lungs, which wakes up some cells that could potentially contain cancerous mutations.

Currently one in 10 lung cancer cases are caused by air pollution in the UK.

Doctors had previously tested an interleukin-1-beta drug in patients suffering from a cardiovascular disease and found, by complete accident, they cut the risk of lung cancer.

Prof Charles Swanton, of the Crick, told the BBC: “It rethinks our understanding of how tumours are initiated.” And he believed it would lead to a ‘new era’ of molecular cancer prevention.

The study was presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology conference, which took place in Paris this month.


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