Background: Exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) may promote hepatic tumorgenesis through low-grade inflammation. Therefore, we assessed the association of long-term exposure levels of PM2.5 and subsequent risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and investigated the mediation effect of inflammation as represented by alanine aminotransferase (ALT) on this association. Methods: Between 1991 and 1992, we recruited 23 820 participants in Taiwan with no history of HCC. Case patients of HCC were ascertained through computerized data linkage with the National Cancer Registry and death certification systems. Participants' exposures to PM2.5 were based on a four-year average retrieved from stationary monitoring sites. Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess the association between PM2.5 exposure and HCC incidence. Mediation effects of ALT on PM2.5-associated HCC incidence were estimated. Results: A total of 464 HCC cases were newly diagnosed with a median follow-up of 16.9 years. Statistically significantly increasing trends between PM2.5 exposures and ALT were observed on the Main Island and Penghu Islets. The adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for HCC on the Penghu Islets was 1.22 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.02 to 1.47) per PM2.5 interquartile range (IQR) increment (0.73 μg/m3) exposure. We also found a positive association between PM2.5 exposure (per IQR increment, 13.1 μg/m3) and HCC incidence on the Main Island. Furthermore, ALT had a statistically significant mediation effect on PM2.5-associated HCC incidence (HR = 1.17, 95% CI = 1.02 to1.52 on the Main Island; HR = 1.04, 95% CI = 1.03 to 1.07 on the Penghu Islets) per PM2.5 IQR increment. Conclusions: Long-term PM2.5 exposure increased the risk for liver cancer, and chronic inflammation of the liver may underlie the pathogenesis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes