But many people can’t afford to move — even if they live in a lower quality environment
Your environment matters.
On average, there are 451 cancer cases per 100,000 people in a county. But in counties with poor quality environments — think low air, water and land quality, lack of access to grocery stores, hospitals and gyms, plus high crime and poverty — that rate jumps by an additional 39 cases, when compared to high-environmental-quality counties, a study published Monday in the journal Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, reveals.
“Our study is the first we are aware of to address the impact of cumulative environmental exposures on cancer incidence,” says Dr. Jyotsna S. Jagai of the University of Illinois at Chicago who led the study. “Most studies focus on one particular pollutant, such as particulate matter in air pollution, when in life we are exposed to multiple pollutants at any given time.”
Though this study can’t prove that the higher rates of cancer are caused by the poor quality environments, it suggests that. Jagai says “there shouldn’t be a reason one who lives in one place is more likely to get cancer” and that this hints at “strong environmental drivers” for cancer risk.
Prostate and breast cancer rates, in particular, were influenced by poor environmental quality, with an additional 10 more cases of prostate cancer per 100,000 people and 7 more cases of breast cancer for those living in poor quality environments. The environmental factors that most influenced these cancers were air pollution, lack of access to grocery stores, gyms and green spaces in the area. Overall, air pollution was the most correlated to cancer risk.
The strong link between environment and cancer is particularly troubling given that many people don’t move — often because they can’t afford to. Four in 10 Americans have never moved from the place in which they were born, according to data from the Pew Research Center. And it is the most affluent Americans who are the ones most likely to move, Pew founds — which makes sense considering that the average move is prohibitively expensive for many. The American Moving and Storage Association says that the average interstate move costs about $4,300, the average intrastate move about $2,300.
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