"Tobacco smoking is rare in women from Xuan Wei, yet the female population has an abnormally high lung cancer death rate," said Dr. Keohavong. "Women in this region traditionally start the fires and cook, spending more time inside homes that lack ventilation. As a result, they are more likely to be exposed to potentially dangerous emissions."
The lung cancer mortality rate in some communities in Xuan Wei County is among the highest in China, and more than 20 times that country's national average. The levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons generated during cooking with smoky coal are comparable to exposure levels experienced by coke oven workers.
Co-authors of the study include Qing Lan, Ph.D., division of cancer epidemiology and genetics, National Cancer Institute; Wei-Min Gaol, Ph.D., department of internal medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Kui-Cheng Zheng, Ph.D., department of environmental and occupational health, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health; Hussam H. Mady, M.D., and Mona F. Melhem, M.D., department of pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; and Judy L. Mumford, Ph.D., National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The study was funded by a grant from the American Cancer Society.