Air pollution, particularly from vehicle exhaust, has been shown to influence hormonal activity. However, it is unknown whether air pollution exposure is associated with the occurrence of uterine leiomyomata, a hormonally sensitive tumor of the uterus.
For 85,251 women 25–42 years of age at enrollment in the Nurses’ Health Study II, we examined proximity to major roadways and outdoor levels of particulate matter less than 10 microns (PM10) or 2.5 microns (PM2.5) or between 10 and 2.5 microns (PM10–2.5) in diameter for all residential addresses from September 1989 to May 2007. To be eligible for this analysis, a woman had to be alive and respond to questionnaires, premenopausal with an intact uterus, and without diagnoses of cancer or prevalent uterine leiomyomata. Incidence of ultrasound- or hysterectomy-confirmed uterine leiomyomata and covariates were reported on biennial questionnaires sent through May 2007. Multivariable time-varying Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate the relationship between distance to road or PM exposures and uterine leiomyomata risk.
During 837,573 person-years of follow-up, there were 7760 incident cases of uterine leiomyomata. Living close to a major road and exposures to PM10 or PM10–2.5 were not associated with an increased risk of uterine leiomyomata. However, each 10 μg/m3 increase in 2-year average, 4-year average, or cumulative average PM2.5 was associated with an adjusted hazard ratio of 1.08 (95% confidence interval = 1.00–1.17), 1.09 (0.99–1.19), and 1.11 (1.03–1.19), respectively.
Chronic exposure to PM2.5 may be associated with a modest increased risk of uterine leiomyomata.