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Utah study: Pollution presents higher health risks for childhood cancer survivors



SALT LAKE CITY – Childhood cancer survivors are at a higher risk of respiratory-related hospitalizations on poor air quality days, according to new research from the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

"Cancer treatments are a miracle of modern medicine and we 're able to cure a lot of people that we couldn't save before,' said Dr. Judy Ou, lead author of the study. "Because of this growing survivor population, preserving their health and making sure they live in high quality fashion is really important." About 80 percent of children diagnosed with cancer will survive their disease according to the cancer institute. With the childhood cancer-surviving population on the rise, researchers thought it was important to understand the health concerns that could impact this growing group.

Researchers used the Utah Population Database to study a sample of nearly 4,000 child, adolescent and young adult cancer survivors who were treated at Primary Children's Hospital between 1

986 and 2012.

The study, entitled "Fine Particulate Matter and Respiratory Healthcare Encounters among Survivors of Childhood Cancers," had three groups: those who received chemotherapy as part of treatment, those who did not, and a cancer-free control group.

Researchers tracked medical records for participants, paying special attention to hospitalizations or emergency room visits for respiratory illnesses that occurred on unhealthy air days.


Cancer treatments are a miracle of modern medicine and we are able to cure a lot of people that we couldn't save before. … preserving their health and making sure they can live their lives in high quality fashion is really important.

–Dr. Judy Ou, Huntsman Cancer Institute


The Utah Department of Environmental Quality Tracks air quality conditions by area and rates air quality for that day on a color scale where red indicates unhealthy air and green indicates healthy air. 19659002] The results of the study showed cancer survivors were at higher risk of respiratory-related hospitalizations when air pollution was below the standard considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

hospitalization on yellow days, or a moderately healthy day, rather than orange days, which are considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Ou noted that respiratory issues are a leading non-cancer cause of death among survivors. Air pollution can contribute to respiratory problems, Ou said.

"I think an increasing amount of research shows that the thresholds we use for air pollution may not really protect everyone the way they should be," added Dr. Anne Kirchhoff, researcher on the study and a pediatric professor at the University of Utah.

The Salt Lake City skyline is pictured on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. During a press conference Tuesday, Huntsman Cancer Institute researched about their findings on the negative effects of Utah's air pollution on childhood cancer survivors. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, KSL)

The research was funded by St. Baldrick's Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to childhood cancer research. Examining adult cancer survivors

A majority of hospitalizations, at 91 percent, and 75 percent of emergency room visits took place at the Wasatch Front in Salt Lake, Davis, Utah and Weber counties.

The study examined acute, or short-term respiratory issues and the pair said they plan to conduct future studies that look at long-term problems for childhood cancer survivors potentially caused by low air quality. is a win-win for everybody – it would protect both the vulnerable and the general population, create a healthier environment and potentially reduce economic impacts.

" well as second cancers, "she said. "And so just from an economics perspective, if we can reduce their burden of disease we will save our society a lot of money in the long run. -effective way to reduce their impact on our health care system. "

Dr. Douglas Fair, a pediatric oncologist at Primary Children's Hospital, advised childhood cancer survivors to speak to their physicians if they are concerned about the risk of air pollution-related respiratory issues.

air in Utah, "he said. "I think we can work in this state to improve air quality because I think there are lots of vulnerable populations."

Doctors and health care providers work hard to cure these patients or cancer, he added, and said survivors deserve a high quality of life.

"I think it's important for all of us to really try to help them live the healthiest lives possible after that," he said. "And in Utah, one of the things that we really can do is decrease the air pollution that they are exposed to."

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