Air pollution has been recognized to be a risk factor for lung cancer. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of air pollution on heavy metal alterations in the pleural effusion of lung cancer patients. Pleural effusion was collected from patients with lung cancer and congestive heart failure (CHF). One-year average levels of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of < 10 µm (PM10), PM2.5, NO2, and SO2 were linked to the exposure of these subjects. Traffic-related metals, included Al, Fe, Cu, Zn, and Pb, were determined in the pleural effusion. Logistic regression models were used to examine their associations. There were 63 lung cancer patients and 31 CHF patients enrolled in the current study. We found that PM10, PM2.5, and NO2 were negatively correlated with Al in the pleural effusion, whereas PM2.5 was positively correlated with Zn in the pleural effusion. Increases in 1 μg/m3 of PM2.5 and 1 ng/mL of Zn were associated with lung cancer (adjusted OR = 2.394, 95% CI = 1.446–3.964 for PM2.5; adjusted OR = 1.003, 95% CI = 1.000–1.005 for Zn). Increases in PM2.5 and Zn in the pleural effusion increased the risk of malignant pleural effusion in lung cancer patients (adjusted OR = 1.517; 95% CI = 1.082–2.127 for PM2.5; adjusted OR = 1.002, 95% CI = 1.000–1.005 for Zn). Furthermore, we observed that adenocarcinomas increased in association with a 1-μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 (crude OR = 1.683; 95% CI = 1.006–2.817) in lung cancer patients. In conclusion, PM2.5 exposure and the possible resultant Zn in the pleural effusion associated with the development of malignant pleural effusion in lung cancer.
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