Diesel Exhaust Exposure Increases Lung Cancer Risk: Study

A new federal study suggests that exposure to diesel exhaust could be contributing to an increase in lung cancer deaths among miners. 

Known as the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study, the report finds that miners who work in cramped conditions where diesel exhaust from machinery can quickly build to high concentrations are much more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer and are more likely to die from it. The findings of the study were published this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The report looked specifically at miners in non-metal mines in order to cut down on other exposures that could lead to cancer. Even then they found that the risk of lung cancer was up to seven times greater for those in the highest category of diesel exhaust exposure when compared to those who worked in mines with low diesel exhaust exposure levels.

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Researchers took into account smoking and other lung cancer risk factors, finding that the risk of lung cancer death among miners who worked in areas of heavy diesel exposure were three times higher than for their fellow workers in mines without high concentrations.

The research was conducted by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, looking at data on more than 12,300 workers at eight non-metal mining facilities.

One surprising result from the studies was that heavy smokers fared better in high diesel exhaust settings than non-smokers. Researchers theorized that they may be better at clearing out the diesel exhaust from their lungs, or that the carcinogens from smoking actually compete with those from diesel exhaust, diminishing the effects of both. Similar results have been seen among coal miners who smoke.

The researchers pointed out that not only could miners be at risk from diesel exhaust, but it could also affect people living in urban areas with high diesel exhaust levels as well.


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