How air pollution turns off the genes that prevent breast cancer

Whether you’re a truck driver, a landscaper, a courier, a parking or tollbooth attendant, a border patrol officer or you just live by a major highway and spend time outdoors, you’re inhaling large amounts of air pollution daily.

It’s no secret that this isn’t good for you. But you may not realize just how bad it is…

It doesn’t just put you at risk for asthma and other respiratory issues, which can be serious enough on their own. It puts you at risk for major, deadly diseases like heart disease and, yes, even cancer.

In fact, it could make your cancer risk as much as 16 times higher…

Car-related air pollution comes with breast cancer risk

Imagine working at the busiest commercial border crossing in North America. Roughly, 12,000 trucks and 15,000 cars pass by you each day. And the air pollution around you is relentless.

Every day you inhale multiple carcinogens, including many that put you at risk for breast cancer.

Is it any wonder, then, that women who work in these conditions are more likely to develop breast cancer than everyone else?

Recently, researchers from the University of Stirling began connecting the dots between air pollution and breast cancer. They noticed breast cancer clusters among border crossing guards at the U.S.A.-Canada border.

One woman, who was a border guard for 20 years, developed breast cancer once when she was 44, then again when she was 51. Five of her colleagues developed breast cancer too. And they all developed it within 30 months of each other.

These women developed breast cancer at a rate 16 times higher than the average person. And they weren’t alone…

Another group of women at a different border crossing had a similar experience. Seven of them developed breast cancer, making their risk much higher than the national average.

The women in these clusters had unusually bad circumstances surrounding their cancer diagnoses too. They were diagnosed at younger ages than average (before menopause) and were more likely to have cancer recurrences.

Why did air pollution cause such a high breast cancer risk?

Well, according to researchers, air pollution has a direct impact on two genes that suppress tumors, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Read: Pop one of these to fight DNA-damaging air pollution

You may have heard of these genes before. Women who are born with inherited mutations in these genes have a much higher risk of breast cancer.

But even if you don’t come into the world with that genetic disadvantage, you could develop a similar disadvantage just by inhaling too much air pollution. Air pollution causes these BRCA1 and BRCA2 tumor suppressors to stop working, putting you at risk for breast cancer.

Avoid air pollution like your life depends on it

I’m guessing most of you don’t work at a border patrol station. So, why does this matter to you?

Because we’re all exposed to air pollution. Maybe not at as high a concentration as these border guards (although, depending on your job or where you live, you might be).

But even at a lower concentration, it could hike up your cancer risk. Sure, maybe it won’t be 16 times higher. But do you even want it to be two or three times higher?

I thought not.

The problem with air pollution is it’s hard to avoid. But you aren’t completely helpless. You can reduce your exposure by staying away from heavy traffic.

Read: Slash your breast cancer risk by 40 percent

That’s not always easy. It may even mean big life changes like switching jobs or moving. If those changes aren’t possible, at the very least, close your windows during peak traffic times. And invest in an air purifier to capture some of the pollutants that find their way in.

You should also avoid exercising in areas with heavy traffic. And if you live in a major city, avoid outdoor activities when the air quality index is 101 or higher (you can check the EPA’s air quality website).

It’s also a good idea to take care of your health in other ways, so you’re less susceptible to the ill effects of air pollution. That means eating a healthy diet filled with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and quality proteins. It also means exercising daily. The fact is, if you’re body’s in great shape, a little air pollution probably won’t do you any harm.

When it comes to air pollution, you should also think about the future. Make the world a healthier place for you (and everyone else) by reducing your contribution to vehicle air pollution. Drive less and walk or bike more. Consider buying a hybrid or electric car. And vote for politicians who care about making the air safer for current and future generations, so we’re not slowly poisoning ourselves and our loved ones.

Editor’s note: Discover how to live a cancer prevention lifestyle — using foods, vitamins, minerals and herbs — as well as little-known therapies allowed in other countries but denied to you by American mainstream medicine. Click here to discover Surviving Cancer! A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Causes, Treatments and Big Business Behind Medicine’s Most Frightening Diagnosis!


  1. Occupational health study links air pollution and cancer — University of Stirling
  2. BRCA Mutations: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing — National Cancer Institute
  3. Avoid the Health Effects of Air PollutionConsumer Reports
  4. What can individuals do to reduce personal health risks from air pollution?Journal of Thoracic Disease
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and