Little is known about the effect of air pollution on the gastrointestinal (GI) system. We investigated the association between long-term exposures to outdoor fine particles (PM2.5) and hospitalization for peptic ulcer diseases (PUDs) in a large cohort of Hong Kong Chinese elderly.
A total of 66,820 subjects aged ≥65 years who were enrolled in all 18 Government Elderly Health Service centers of Hong Kong participated in the study voluntarily between 1998 and 2001. They were prospectively followed up for more than 10 years. Annual mean exposures to PM2.5 at residence of individuals were estimated by satellite data through linkage with address details including floor level. All hospital admission records of the subjects up to December 31, 2010 were retrieved from the central database of Hospital Authority. We used Cox regression to estimate the hazard ratio (HR) for PUD hospitalization associated with PM2.5 exposure after adjustment for individual and ecological covariates.
A total of 60,273 subjects had completed baseline information including medical, socio-demographic, lifestyle, and anthropometric data at recruitment. During the follow-up period, 1991 (3.3%) subjects had been hospitalized for PUD. The adjusted HR for PUD hospitalization per 10 μg/m3 of PM2.5 was 1.18 (95% confidence interval: 1.02–1.36, P = 0.02). Further analysis showed that the associations with PM2.5 were significant for gastric ulcers (HR 1.29; 1.09–1.53, P = 0.003) but not for duodenal ulcers (HR 0.98; 0.78 to 1.22, P = 0.81).
Long-term exposures to PM2.5 were associated with PUD hospitalization in elder population. The mechanism underlying the PM2.5 in the development of gastric ulcers warrants further research.