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Evaluating county-level lung cancer incidence from environmental radiation exposure, PM2.5, and other exposures with regressi...

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Environmental Geochemistry and Health
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Characterizing the interplay between exposures shaping the human exposome is vital for uncovering the etiology of complex diseases. For example, cancer risk is modified by a range of multifactorial external environmental exposures. Environmental, socioeconomic, and lifestyle factors all shape lung cancer risk. However, epidemiological studies of radon aimed at identifying populations at high risk for lung cancer often fail to consider multiple exposures simultaneously. For example, moderating factors, such as PM2.5, may affect the transport of radon progeny to lung tissue. This ecological analysis leveraged a population-level dataset from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results data (2013–17) to simultaneously investigate the effect of multiple sources of low-dose radiation (gross activity and indoor radon) and PM2.5 on lung cancer incidence rates in the USA. County-level factors (environmental, sociodemographic, lifestyle) were controlled for, and Poisson regression and random forest models were used to assess the association between radon exposure and lung and bronchus cancer incidence rates. Tree-based machine learning (ML) method perform better than traditional regression: Poisson regression: 6.29/7.13 (mean absolute percentage error, MAPE), 12.70/12.77 (root mean square error, RMSE); Poisson random forest regression: 1.22/1.16 (MAPE), 8.01/8.15 (RMSE). The effect of PM2.5 increased with the concentration of environmental radon, thereby confirming findings from previous studies that investigated the possible synergistic effect of radon and PM2.5 on health outcomes. In summary, the results demonstrated (1) a need to consider multiple environmental exposures when assessing radon exposure’s association with lung cancer risk, thereby highlighting (1) the importance of an exposomics framework and (2) that employing ML models may capture the complex interplay between environmental exposures and health, as in the case of indoor radon exposure and lung cancer incidence.