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"Cancer risk from air pollution drops in Southern California"

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology Julia Heck compares air pollution to other causes of cancer like tobacco and alcohol use. 
Thursday, October 2, 2014
Truck on CA freeway

Southern Californians' cancer risk from air pollution has dropped 65% since 2005 but is still too high in many areas, regional air quality regulators said in a report released Thursday.

They attribute much of the improvement to tough state and local regulations, incentive programs and cleaner fuels that have slashed diesel emissions from trucks, ships and other vehicles on freeways and in freight corridors and ports.

The study by the South Coast Air Quality Management District measured levels of cancer-causing air pollutants to estimate the health risk they pose to 16.7 million people across a four-county region.

While the assessment shows remarkable progress, the region's risk remains unacceptably high and is among the worst in the nation, air quality officials said.

The main cancer linked to air pollution is lung cancer.

However, the number of actual cancer cases attributed to air pollution is small relative to other causes such as tobacco and alcohol use, said Julia Heck, an assistant professor of epidemiology at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health.

"Ultimately this is a positive finding, even if the absolute number of cancer cases prevented might not be that big," she said.

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