New research has found that air pollution may heighten the likelihood of heart disease and mortality among cancer patients, exacerbating existing health disparities within this population. The study analyzed eight papers published from 2000 to 2023 that examined how air pollution directly affects cardiovascular conditions like heart attacks and strokes, alongside cancer. The review encompassed over 11 million participants.

The researchers discovered that exposure to fine particulate (PM2.5) pollution compromised the body's ability to detoxify and defend against inflammation, factors that increase the risk of both cancer and cardiovascular disease.

"Air pollution plays an undeniable role in the field of cardio-oncology," the authors, including those from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China, wrote.

Researchers have discovered that brief exposure to high levels of air pollution can rapidly impact the heart health of cancer patients, as reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC): CardioOncology.

"This suggests that even temporary deteriorations in air quality can have immediate adverse effects on vulnerable populations such as cardio-oncology patients," said senior author Xiaoquan Rao, a cardiologist at Tongji Hospital, Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

Researchers stated that air pollution

exacerbates health disparities globally, with marginalized communities experiencing elevated exposure levels. Furthermore, individuals within these groups who have cancer face increased risks of heart disease and mortality compared to the broader population.

According to the authors, while air pollution is recognised as a significant risk factor for both heart disease and cancer, this study aims to show its effects in cardio-oncology or the overlap of both conditions - an area in which little research has been done.

Deaths due to air pollution are estimated to be about 100-fold higher in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), compared to high-income ones. LMICs also see more than 65 per cent of all cancer deaths and 70 per cent of cardiovascular disease deaths, the authors said in the study.

Environmental factors are critical for understanding cardio-oncology risk and patient management and the findings could help identify people more vulnerable to the risk, said Rao.

"This awareness is crucial for developing tailored air pollution exposure control measures and individualised patient management strategies aimed at mitigating cardiovascular disease risks among cancer patients," said Rao.

The authors also outlined potential interventions aimed at reducing the adverse effects of air pollution exposure, including recommendations for society and governments.
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