Medical experts have long cautioned that living near traffic related air pollution can have a devastating effect on childhood development in terms of respiratory obstruction and neurological disorders.

Now, researchers in California claim they have stumbled across information that may add various types of cancer to the dangers of vehicle fuel emission.

California's Air Resources Board (CARB) estimates that about 70 percent of the cancer risk that the average Californian faces from breathing toxic air contaminants stems from diesel exhaust particles.

The research team compared the California Department of Transportation's computer model of traffic-related air pollution to data compiled from 3,590 children diagnosed with some form of cancer who were registered with the California Cancer Registry, LATimes reported.

"Much less is known about exposure to pollution and childhood cancer than adult cancers," study researcher Julia Heck, assistant researcher in the department of epidemiology at UCLA, said in a statement. "Our innovation in this study was looking at other more rare types of childhood cancer, such as retinoblastoma, and their possible connection to traffic-related air pollution."

The state of California was broken down into four groups ranging from the area with the highest concentration of automobile pollution to the area with the least. When the data was analyzed the research team found a noticeable correlation between highly polluted areas and cases involving cancer.

Conditions with the greatest number of cases included:

  • acute lymphoblastic leukemia (280 cases)
  • neuroblastoma (417)
  • wilms tumor (298)
  • astrocytoma (282)

This study is the first of its kind to analyze the connection between traffic pollution and tumor growth and other cancerous symptoms. Since the types of cancer featured in this study are rare and the risk increase was small, the team believes that their findings should be reapplied in other studies in order to shed further light on the connection between air pollution and cancer.

The entire study was presented to the American Association for Cancer Research on Tuesday.