Lung cancer and bladder tumours have officially been linked to diesel exhausts by the World Health Organization. About 15% of lung cancers are not related to cigarette smoke, and among those, pollution, like car fumes, is a leading cause (a genetic factor is also strongly suspected).

That means that truck drivers, people with long commutes, and people who live next to highways are at an increased risk for lung cancer. Previous studies have established that being close to a busy road increases asthma and allergy rates in children, and while air pollution in general has been attributed to lung cancer symptoms, there is now an official recommendation for the public to reduce their exposure to these fumes.

Telecommuting, moving closer to work and away from busy roads are all ways to help reduce exposure. If you can’t avoid exposure due to work, monitor closely for lung cancer symptoms, which are hard to spot!

Lung cancer symptoms in smokers can start decades early in the form of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and presumably similar early symptoms will appear in those habitually exposed to severe air pollution. Chronic lung infections (bronchitis or pneumonia) and an early morning mucus filled cough are the earliest symptoms of COPD (and thus early lung cancer symptoms).

Other lung cancer symptoms, (once the cancer is formed), include a chronic cough (not just in the morning), unexplained weight loss (a symptoms of most cancers) and shortness of breath. Chest pain, difficulty swallowing, and coughing up blood can also be lung cancer symptoms and are reason to get a medical evaluation immediately.

Supporting overall health is not only in helping your body stay healthy, but in helping you to spot lung cancer symptoms. If you exercise regularly, not only will you be more likely to notice that you’re out of breath, but the difference will be more dramatic than for a couch potato. If you’re not likely to get common illnesses like flu or pneumonia, than a sudden unshakeable case becomes a reason to make sure doctors monitor you closely. And if you’re already a healthy weight, unexplained weight loss will be noticeable more quickly (especially against people whose weight fluctuates frequently).

Early detection of lung cancer symptoms may be one of the more important keys to surviving the disease—lung cancer is prone to spreading to other parts of the body, and the five year survival rate is only about 15% in the US.

Do you think society/the government should take steps to reduce diesel fumes? How do you balance public health concerns against practical needs (outside of rural areas, most people are pretty close to a busy road)?


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