Groundwater Radon Exposure And Risk Of Lung Cancer
Naturally occurring radioactive elements can be found in groundwater and exposure to such elements is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. In this study, the researchers aimed to observe the association between exposure to these radioactive elements in groundwater and the risk of lung cancer in selected regions in Finland. This was a population-based study from 1955 to 2019 in Finland. The exposed municipalities with their corresponding hospital districts were selected based on radon measurements at groundwater treatment plants. Lung cancer cases were obtained from the Finnish cancer registry.
The 5-year incidence rates for lung cancer were calculated and a comparison was made between each of the hospital districts with radon exposure. More than 93,000 cases of lung cancer were reported in the radon-exposed regions over the examined period of 64 years. The highest number of cases was recorded in the Helsinki University hospital district and the least in the Southern Savo hospital district. Similarly, the lung cancer incidence rate was highest in Lapland and lowest in the Southern Savo hospital district. The number of daily smokers in the working-age population appears to have decreased in all the hospital districts from 2013 to 2018. A statistically significant increased risk of lung cancer was observed in the high radon-exposed hospital districts compared to those with lower exposure. Groundwater radon exposure is observed to be associated with an increased risk of lung cancer.
Radon is a radioactive gas that forms naturally when uranium, thorium, or radium, which are radioactive metals break down in rocks, soil and groundwater. People can be exposed to radon primarily from breathing radon in air that comes through cracks and gaps in buildings and homes. Because radon comes naturally from the earth, people are always exposed to it.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General’s office estimate radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. When you breathe in radon, radioactive particles from radon gas can get trapped in your lungs. Over time, these radioactive particles increase the risk of lung cancer. It may take years before health problems appear.
People who smoke and are exposed to radon are at a greater risk of developing lung cancer. EPA recommends taking action to reduce radon in homes that have a radon level at or above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air (a “picocurie” is a common unit for measuring the amount of radioactivity).
Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:
1.How much radon is in your home–the location where you spend most of your time (e.g., the main living and sleeping areas)
2.The amount of time you spend in your home
3.Whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked
4.Whether you burn wood, coal, or other substances that add particles to the indoor air
Hadkhale, K., Atosuo, J., & Putus, T. (2022). Groundwater radon exposure and risk of lung cancer: A population-based study in Finland. Frontiers in Oncology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2022.935687
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