Household air pollution and lung cancer in China: A review of studies in Xuanwei

Wei Jie Seow, Wei Hu, Roel Vermeulen, H. Dean Hosgood, George S. Downward, Robert S. Chapman, Xingzhou He, Bryan A. Bassig, Christopher Kim, Cuiju Wen, Nathaniel Rothman, Qing Lan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Over half of the world’s population is exposed to household air pollution from the burning of solid fuels at home. Household air pollution from solid fuel use is a leading risk factor for global disease and remains a major public health problem, especially in low- and mid-income countries. This is a particularly serious problem in China, where many people in rural areas still use coal for household heating and cooking. This review focuses on several decades of research carried out in Xuanwei County, Yunnan Province, where household coal use is a major source of household air pollution and where studies have linked household air pollution exposure to high rates of lung cancer. We conducted a series of case-control and cohort studies in Xuanwei to characterize the lung cancer risk in this population and the factors associated with it. We found lung cancer risk to vary substantially between different coal types, with a higher risk associated with smoky (i.e., bituminous) coal use compared to smokeless (i.e., anthracite) coal use. The installation of a chimney in homes resulted in a substantial reduction in lung cancer incidence and mortality. Overall, our research underscores the need among existing coal users to improve ventilation, use the least toxic fuel, and eventually move toward the use of cleaner fuels, such as gas and electricity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-475
Number of pages5
JournalChinese Journal of Cancer
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2014


  • Coal
  • Household air pollution
  • Lung cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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