Air pollution and cancer

Prof. Yinon Rudich, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Prof. Yinon Rudich is an expert on aerosols—the airborne dust that has a significant impact both on global climate patterns and on human health. The World Health Organization has identified exposure to air pollution as the 5th largest cause of death globally and categorized air pollution as carcinogenic.  Cellular exposure to air pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other toxic chemicals that are carried by pollution and dust lead to oxidative stress, triggering inflammatory pathways that can lead to cancer onset. In parallel, exposure to these airborne toxins affects the activity of a molecule which serves as a “master regulator” of the cell’s anti-oxidant response: a transcription factor called Nrf2.  Prof. Rudich has shown that a single sub-clinical exposure to water extracts from re-suspended urban dust activates Nrf2-related antioxidant/detoxification defense mechanisms, while multiple exposures reduce the Nrf2 antioxidant response. He is currently studying the Nrf2 transcription factor and its related genes in cancer. His work is helping to establish biomarkers such as Nrf2 and senescence that can serve as early warning signs of lung cancer triggered by exposure to air pollution.