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The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
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Car fumes - potentially cause of Lung Cancer

Yesterday I received my 2nd dose of Chemo for Lung Cancer.

Originally it was diagnosed as “small cell lung cancer” after I’d had a bronchopathy biopsy.

It's a mystery that I now have Lung Cancer. I know there is a school of thought that genealogy has a part. But I suspect that it may have been caused by my car.

I had a chest X-Ray in December after I felt unwell following cycling into work on a very cold morning during which I inhaled lots of cold air into my lungs.

The letter following the X-Ray states:-

“There is opacification in the left lower zone suggesting a combination of pleural effusion and consolidation. The rest of the lungs are clear. The heart size is normal”.

In May 2017, I chose to leave my company to retire at age 58.

In late June I wanted another job so put myself forward. Their process required that my GP gives me a thorough medical examination. During the examination my GP discovered that was wheezing and had a blow of only 500. He said I should at least get 570. I was then prescribed Asthmatic inhaler (brown & blue).

A few weeks later I was having problems swallowing food. So returned to my GP.

Together with my history the GP was concerned and he put me forward for gastroscopy & bronchopathy Tests.

My lifestyle has always been fitness oriented. I’ve been swimming since I was a little boy, played football, cycled bike. And for the past 17 years in my spare time I dance Salsa and more recently dance Lindy Hop. These are smokeless environments.

So I ask myself what could give me sufficient time of enduring toxic fumes. Driving my car has the potential. It has the time in the driving seat (exposure) and oil is known to be carcinogenic.

My car has a problem with number 1 cylinder, in which oil is getting into the cylinder and I can sometimes smell the fumes.

If I was to drive for 30 minutes to my destination then the round journey would be approx. 1 hour.

An 45 minute trip would have found trip approx 90 minutes.

Does anybody else think the car could have provided an environment that could supply the conditions that could induce lung cancer.

Or is the thought too far fetched?

9 Replies

Hi I don't think it's too far fetched but another thought is : how old is your boiler and have you got a carbon monoxide alarm? If you do have one you could place it in the car to see if it registers anything?

Just a thought.



Hello Hoggy,

The fumes is not with my house boiler. It is the fumes produced by petrol and oil escaping number one cylinder of my car and getting into the cabin of the car (via vents and the heating/cooling system)

That's an idea - use a carbon monoxide tester..However the pollutant is probably more than carbon monoxide...Since the fumes would be a mixture of whatever is produced from the fumes of petrol and engine oil ...And those fumes contain more than carbon monoxide (but it is is a good starting point)

Personal I think only a specialist could do the proper tests...Who could that be? Maybe a forensic scientist? The costs of a forensic scientist could be exhorbitant (I don't know) ... But if this is a possible reason that given a set of circumstances carcinogens (a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue) are produced.

It would definitely be a public service if this was explored. However the testing and research is probably very expensive. Maybe a University could explore?


I think air pollution could link with lung cancer. I lived most of my life from 0 to 40 near a motorway and wonder if the pollution from it could link with my lung cancer diagnosis. I wonder about diesel cars and air pollution. I also wonder if there are a number of things which contribute to it. Possibly stress too.

Best wishes xx


There are a variety of pollutants linked to cancer.I have added some links for your information




Kind regards

All the team at RoyCastle Helpline


Hi, Some years ago, I remember asking the same question at a Roy Castle conference in Birmingham in a room of patients, carers and survivors and being asked 'why do you want to know?' many in the room wanted to know if it was hereditary and then it was explained to me that as less than 5% of all cancer research funding was spent on lung cancer at that time, it was more important to find treatments than the cause. I was also fit and a never smoker when diagnosed and like many of us, have at times struggled to understand why some people who appear fit, well and don't smoke get not just lung cancer (although that's more unexpected as we're led to believe it is primary a smoker's condition and non smokers getting it is rare) but any cancers.. my dad had bowel cancer twice in his 50s and is now 87 and had it again last year. he doesn't drink, smoke and has never been overweight. however having read quite a bit and attended lots of conferences, I now understand that all of us, irrespective of what we do in our lives, have the ability for a certain set of conditions (multiple conditions) to happen that causes cells to mutate and then form a tumour anywhere. This is the biology of the condition although there are over 200 types of cancer. Certain things can make things work and exposure to certain pollutants are known to contribute. for me, I chose to learn more about the condition and advocate for people however they developed the condition as I started to recover after major surgery. I'm sure many people will come forward and suggest it might be their vehicle, or the pylons in their road, or some other suspected cause but evidence shows that tobacco is the number one cause, and then it all gets a bit vague. some countries acknowledge the contribution that air quality contributes, UK recognises the contribution of radon gas and pesticides (farmers' lung) and asbestos exposure is the cause of mesothelioma (another type of lung condition considered alongside lung cancer). I think if you have spare money that you'd consider having forensic tests, this might be better spent pursuing your own happiness and life. The european lung foundation is doing quite a lot of work looking at the hazards that workers are exposed to in certain industries and the British Lung foundation has been working on quality of air generally. I swim regularly and have even had it suggested that chlorine might have contributed! My ow thoughts are around hormones as so many female never smokers of menopausal age develop it but again, to date, no evidence so we continue to wonder…..

Many clinicians aren't up to speed on all the developments in lung cancer research and treatment options and jump to the conclusion (rather lazily in my view) that you must have smoked, lived with somebody who smoked or worked in a smoky environment even though there are tens of thousands of people who have done all these things and not developed it and equal numbers who have not been exposed in this way yet developed it. I can recommend some books if you're interested - 'The emperor of all maladies - a history of cancer and its treatments and shows how thinking has changed over the years including the first recognised workplace cancers', 'cancer is a word not a sentence' by Dr Rob Buckman that explains it in context of other conditions and can make it much less scary and 'anti cancer, a new way of life' by Dr Servan Schreiber that explains his journey exploring all manner of areas around the world to discover cause and lifestyles that could improve the situation for those with cancer. good luck….


JanetteR57, thank you for your feedback.

I find it inadequate and inappropriate for you or anybody to be told "at a Roy Castle conference in Birmingham in a room of patients, carers and survivors and being asked 'why do you want to know?' many in the room wanted to know if it was hereditary and then it was explained to me that as less than 5% of all cancer research funding was spent on lung cancer at that time, it was more important to find treatments than the cause."

Prevention is better than cure.

Using my instance as an example, lessons could be learnt. One of them being, if the motor vehicle has any problems in which petrol/diesel and oil can be smelt then get the vehicle attended to. And if the vehicle cannot be attended to then scrap the vehicle ASAP. I doubt though that mine is an isolated instance.

I suspect that this is already known by those in the motor industry, and is probably a good reason for the push towards having electric vehicles only.


Thanks for your comments. I didn't see it as inappropriate but a valid question from the only UK charity dedicated to lung cancer being realistic about the limited funding and research going into lung cancer at the time. 'Prevention is better than cure' - may be correct in ideal world - but not to a room full of patients/carers/relatives of those with any condition which is what the scenario was. The session was facilitated by a psychologist so the question wasn't combative, it was trying to explore with patients that. given the limited amount of money available for research whether the priority should be discovering new treatments or finding out why they'd developed it not advancing the hope and opportunities for those with cancer.

It was 5 years ago and there were far fewer trials or research studies into lung cancer. The situation has improved regarding research into the condition but sadly the outcomes are not improving quickly enough. There is recognition in different countries about air quality and in the UK, particulates in the air caused by diesel mingling with other pollutants are hazardous to health especially for those with respiratory disorders of any kind.

Unfortunately the way healthcare is organised in the UK is that prevention is the remit of Public Health England part of local authorities (i.e. not part of Health organisations) and healthcare by the Department of health through Clinical commissioning groups, hospitals etc. so sometimes it is the way that the structures, policies and departments are organised that contribute to the way research is or isn't funded. I am a non exec director in the NHS and we have to consider these types of decisions all the time - what to fund or not fund against competing priorities of conditions for patients at all stages of their lives when the pot of money has to spread around so many priorities.

For me, part of the dishonesty about diesel/petrol vehicles, is that buses,trains and freight vehicles also belch out fumes in concentrated areas - having just returned from a few days in London where I used the underground frequently, the air quality is much poorer than the acknowledged poor air quality where I live so freight vehicles, buses and trains also need much more regulation not just the domestic drivers.

good luck with your treatments and studies.


I am definitely of the opinion that our cities are increasing our chances of lung cancer and lung disease through carcinogenic traffic fumes .Diesel taxis and buses should be banned and only electric transport should be promoted by our councils .They changes are simple and available Toyota are a good example of this stop start motors and self generating electric engines using brake technology and why I am on it all wood burners should be banned from city centre homes .Why are these toxic fires promoted when central heating does the job ,goodness know what people burn in them .So yes yes yes ,why should small children in prams pushchairs be exposed to such hazards ,I have an Aunt who lives in London and last was advised by her local council not to go out as air pollution was too high .I cannot believe that we intelligent civilised human beings keep making the same mistakes over and over again .Our world seems to be money orientated not health promoted .And way apologies I think your post started me on a rant .It is something that I have thought a lot about since my diagnosis and I dolce in Plymouth which is a city so I am exposed to such an environment .But you wish you'd not posted after rant .Diane

1 like

diane55 all your points are very pertinent and relevant...And it is best to shout and rant ...being silent is not an option


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