Northern Thailand Faces Rising Lung Cancer Due to Air Pollution

Residents of northern Thailand, especially those in Chiang Mai and Lampang, are experiencing high death rates from lung cancer. Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Medicine has linked these rates to high concentrations of PM2.5 particles in the air.

Chalerm Liewsisakul, an associate professor at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Medicine, noted that PM2.5 pollution has significantly worsened over the last ten years in the north, leading to an increase in lung disease cases.

Research indicates that the death rate from lung cancer per 100,000 individuals in the northern region rose from 20.3 in 2010 to 30.7 in 2019.

This is in contrast to Bangkok’s increase from 14.9 to 22.6, the Northeast’s from 10.2 to 17, and the South’s from 9.5 to 16.8 over the same period.

From 2010 to 2021, data reveal that the northern provinces, notably Chiang Mai and Lampang, recorded the highest lung cancer mortality rates, underscoring the critical need for measures to mitigate air pollution and its health impacts in these areas.

“In addition, the incidence of lung cancer among young individuals in the northern region surpasses that of other areas,” he said.

“This correlation is likely attributed to PM2.5 pollution, a link supported by global research indicating the heightened cancer risk, particularly lung cancer, associated with prolonged exposure to PM2.5 particles.”

He referred to a study by the Faculty of Medicine that examined emphysema sufferers in Chiang Dao, known for its high levels of PM2.5 particles.

The study involved analyzing cells from cheek scrapings of emphysema patients and found major cellular changes during periods of high PM2.5 levels compared to periods with lower levels. He suggested these changes could lead to future cancer development.

There has also been an increase in respiratory problems, including nosebleeds and continuous coughing, when PM2.5 levels spike, especially noted in March.

Critical health issues, like worsening emphysema, heart disease, and stroke, become more common with these pollution surges, highlighting the serious health threats from high PM2.5 levels.

Research from CMU’s Faculty of Medicine shows a troubling link between PM2.5 levels and mortality rates in Chiang Mai, with a 1.6% increase in the mortality rate for every 10 µg/m³ rise in PM2.5 concentration over six days.

The faculty’s research also uncovered the cause of death for Prof. Rawiwan Olarnratmanee, a former dean at the university’s Faculty of Architecture. The findings showed that her lung cancer was due to genetic mutations linked to PM2.5 exposure.

Her husband, Jittrakorn Olarnratmanee, mentioned she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in February and passed away on April 3. She is among four university lecturers who have died from lung cancer since 2022.

Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital reported that 30,339 individuals had been treated for diseases related to pollution from January 1 to March 15, doubling the figure from the previous year. recently announced that the province had reclaimed its position as the city with the worst air quality worldwide, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaching 237 at 8:52 am on Saturday.