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JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2017 Oct 3;3(4):e64. doi: 10.2196/publichealth.8078.

Effects of the Ambient Fine Particulate Matter on Public Awareness of Lung Cancer Risk in China: Evidence from the Internet-Based Big Data Platform.

Author information

1
School of Public Health, Tianjin Medical University, Tianjin, China.
2
School of Nursing, Tianjin Medical University, Tianjin, China.
3
School of Medical English and Health Communication, Tianjin Medical University, Tianjin, China.
#
Contributed equally

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

In October 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the particulate matter from outdoor air pollution as a group 1 carcinogen and declared that particulate matter can cause lung cancer. Fine particular matter (PM2.5) pollution is becoming a serious public health concern in urban areas of China. It is essential to emphasize the importance of the public's awareness and knowledge of modifiable risk factors of lung cancer for prevention.

OBJECTIVE:

The objective of our study was to explore the public's awareness of the association of PM2.5 with lung cancer risk in China by analyzing the relationship between the daily PM2.5 concentration and searches for the term "lung cancer" on an Internet big data platform, Baidu.

METHODS:

We collected daily PM2.5 concentration data and daily Baidu Index data in 31 Chinese capital cities from January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2016. We used Spearman correlation analysis to explore correlations between the daily Baidu Index for lung cancer searches and the daily average PM2.5 concentration. Granger causality test was used to analyze the causal relationship between the 2 time-series variables.

RESULTS:

In 23 of the 31 cities, the pairwise correlation coefficients (Spearman rho) between the daily Baidu Index for lung cancer searches and the daily average PM2.5 concentration were positive and statistically significant (P<.05). However, the correlation between the daily Baidu Index for lung cancer searches and the daily average PM2.5 concentration was poor (all r2s<.1). Results of Granger causality testing illustrated that there was no unidirectional causality from the daily PM2.5 concentration to the daily Baidu Index for lung cancer searches, which was statistically significant at the 5% level for each city.

CONCLUSIONS:

The daily average PM2.5 concentration had a weak positive impact on the daily search interest for lung cancer on the Baidu search engine. Well-designed awareness campaigns are needed to enhance the general public's awareness of the association of PM2.5 with lung cancer risk, to lead the public to seek more information about PM2.5 and its hazards, and to cope with their environment and its risks appropriately.

KEYWORDS:

Baidu Index; China; PM2.5; information seeking behavior; lung cancer; particulate matter; public awareness; risk factors

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