Components of particulate matter air-pollution and brain tumors

Aslak Harbo Poulsen*, Ulla Arthur Hvidtfeldt, Mette Sørensen, Robin Puett, Matthias Ketzel, Jørgen Brandt, Jesper H. Christensen, Camilla Geels, Ole Raaschou-Nielsen

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background: Air pollution is an established carcinogen. Evidence for an association with brain tumors is, however, inconclusive. We investigated if individual particulate matter constituents were associated with brain tumor risk. Methods: From comprehensive national registers, we identified all (n = 12 928) brain tumor cases, diagnosed in Denmark in the period 1989–2014, and selected 22 961 controls, matched on age, sex and year of birth. We established address histories and estimated 10-year mean residential outdoor concentrations of particulate matter < 2.5 µm, primarily emitted black carbon (BC) and organic carbon (OC), and combined carbon (OC/BC), as well as secondary inorganic and organic PM air pollutants from a detailed dispersion model. We used conditional logistic regression to calculate odds ratios (OR) per inter quartile range (IQR) exposure. We adjusted for income, marital and employment status as well as area-level socio-demographic characteristics. Results: Total tumors of the brain were associated with OC/BC (OR: 1.053, 95%CI: 1.005–1.103, per IQR). The data suggested strongest associations for malignant tumors with ORs per IQR for OC/BC, BC and OC of 1.063 (95% CI: 1.007–1.123), 1.036 (95% CI: 1.006–1.067) and 1.030 (95%CI: 0.979–1.085), respectively. The results did not indicate adverse effects of other PM components. Conclusions: This large, population based study showed associations between primary emitted carbonaceous particles and risk for malignant brain tumors. As the first of its kind, this study needs replication.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106046
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The exposure modeling was funded by NordForsk under the Nordic Programme on Health and Welfare (Project #75007: NordicWelfAir - Understanding the link between Air pollution and Distribution of related Health Impacts and Welfare in the Nordic countries). The funding source had no involvement in the study design, collection, analysis, interpretation, writing and decision to submit for publication.


  • Air-pollution
  • Brain tumors
  • Epidemiology
  • Particulate matter

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