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Maternal exposure to ambient air pollution and risk of early childhood cancers: A population-based study in Ontario, Canada

Author: Éric Lavigne, Marc-Andre Blair, Minh T. Do, David M. Stieb, Perry Hystad, Aaron van Donkelaar, Randall V. Martin, Daniel L. Crouse et al.
Year: 2017
Category: Health Publications

Read the journal article in Science Direct


There are increasing concerns regarding the role of exposure to ambient air pollution during pregnancy in the development of early childhood cancers.


This population based study examined whether prenatal and early life (< 1 year of age) exposures to ambient air pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5), were associated with selected common early childhood cancers in Canada.


A total of 2044 childhood cancers were identified. Exposure to PM2.5, per interquartile range increase, over the entire pregnancy, and during the first trimester was associated with an increased risk of astrocytoma (hazard ratio (HR) per 3.9 μg/m3 = 1.38 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.88) and, HR per 4.0 μg/m3 = 1.40 (95% CI: 1.05–1.86), respectively). We also found a positive association between first trimester NO2 and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) (HR = 1.20 (95% CI: 1.02–1.41) per IQR (13.3 ppb)).


In this population-based study in the largest province of Canada, results suggest an association between exposure to ambient air pollution during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester and an increased risk of astrocytoma and ALL. Further studies are required to replicate the findings of this study with adjustment for important individual-level confounders.