Story by Kathryn Hyer
A recent article published in The New York Times has brought to light the resurfaced question of whether or not living at a higher elevation decreases a person’s risk of having lung cancer.
A study conducted by the internet-based news article site PeerJ in January 2015 stated that lung cancer cases fell by seven for every 100,000 people, with every 3,300-foot increase in elevation.
One may notice that as they climb to higher altitudes on a mountain, it becomes harder to breathe. This is because with higher elevation and less air pressure, oxygen levels become less and less readily available for intake. With normal oxygen inhalation, the body also takes in reactive oxygen species, which can be harmful to the human body. They often come in the form of peroxides and can lead to greater risk of disease, including cancer.
Less oxygen means less harmful reactive oxygen species. Less reactive oxygen species means less disease. Less disease means less cancer.
Would it be beneficial to move to a location at a higher elevation?
Bryce Adams, an avid hiker and a senior studying communication, stated that this information would not influence his decision on where to live, even if it would slightly improve his chances of avoiding lung cancer.
“There’s a lot of different places in lower elevations that are really pretty and have active lifestyles that I like,” Adams said.
Adams said it is not so much the elevation that matters, but the scenery and outdoor activities that are available.
“I’m about the lifestyle and type of life I can live,” Adams said.
For those looking to decrease their likelihood of having lung cancer, it may be interesting to note that Alaska has the current highest point of elevation in the United States, topping off at 20,310 feet with Mount Denali. California is next in line with its’ highest elevation being Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet. Colorado is not far behind with Mount Elbert, reaching an elevation of 14,440 feet.
Studies conducted have proven the benefits of living at a higher elevation in regards to lung cancer, but the choice is up to an individual person. Finally, experts say the best way to avoid lung cancer is to live a healthy, active lifestyle, avoid tobacco products and second-hand smoke exposure and steer clear of situations that may expose you to harmful chemicals.