"After smoking, radon is considered to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, said Avner Vengosh, Ph.D., associate professor at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences. "Western North Carolina is highly affected, and many homes exceed the EPA's recommended levels of radon."
Radon's risk is not new or unknown, but it illustrates the real danger posed by indigenous substances as well as those artificially created by humans, say Duke scientists. More than 80,000 synthetic chemicals have been introduced worldwide since World War II, with little or no knowledge as to how they affect humans or animals.
Day by day, environmental scientists identify new culprits in the cancer equation in which genes, environment and lifestyle interact to increase cancer risks in some people but not in others.
Their synergy is by no means a simple interaction, said H. Kim Lyerly, Director of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center. For example, vitamin A can promote lung cancer growth in some women while it maintains healthy breast cell growth and division in others, said Victoria Seewaldt, M.D., director of the Duke Breast Health Clinic. Chemicals that promote cancer in one fish species do not cause cancer in a closely related species, while populations of another species have adapted to a polluted environment, found Richard Di Giulio, Ph.D., of Duke's Nicholas School. Common nutritional supplements like folic acid, given to pregnant mice, altered their offspri! ngs' coat colors and their adult risk of cancer, found Randy Jirtle, Ph.D. professor of radiation oncology at Duke Univ
Contact: Becky Levine
Duke University Medical Center