Coal Mining And Lung Cancer

Lung cancer mortality is elevated in coal-mining areas of Appalachia

Michael Hendryx, Kathryn O’Donnell, Kimberly Horn

Lung Cancer, 2008

Keywords:  Lung cancer, coal mining, mortality, Appalachia, social inequalities, health disparities, environmental heath

Purpose:  This study tests whether residence in coal mining areas in Appalachia is a contributing factor to lung cancer. 

Important Findings:  After adjusting for factors like smoking, poverty, education, age, sex, race, etc., results show higher rates of lung cancer mortality from 2000 – 2004 in areas of heavy coal mining. 

Significant Quotes:  The authors state that “the set of socioeconomic and health inequalities characteristic of coal-mining areas of Appalachia highlights the need to develop more diverse, alternative local economies.”

“Addressing the health disparities of coal-mining communities requires developing economies that offer more diverse job opportunities at lower environmental cost, enacting and enforcing environmental protection policies, improving support for educational development, and creating built environments that are conducive to health and wellness.”

Results:   Although smoking was the main factor contributing to lung cancer, living in a heavy coal-mining area was found to be an additional risk factor as residents in these areas are exposed to pollution from mining activities.  The authors state that  “regardless of whether causes are environmental, behavioral or economic, it is clear that populations in coal-mining areas are at risk for a host of health problems.”


Hendryx, M., K. O’Donnell and K. Horn. "Lung cancer mortality is elevated in coal-mining areas of Appalachia". Lung Cancer. 62 (2008): 1-7.