An increasing number of studies are reporting health benefits of contact with urban green spaces. A new study from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institute supported by the "la Caixa" Banking Foundation, has examined, for the first time, the relationship between exposure to green spaces and breast cancer. The study, which analysed data from more than 3,600 women in Spain, concluded that the risk of breast cancer was lower in the women who lived closer to urban green spaces, like parks or gardens.
Previous research has identified an association between contact with green spaces and several health benefits, including better general and mental health and increased life expectancy. In the older population, contact with green spaces has recently been linked with slower cognitive decline. In children, exposure to greenness has been associated with improvements in attention capacity, behaviour, emotional development, and even beneficial structural changes in the brain. To date, few studies have focused on the relationship between exposure to natural green spaces and the risk of cancer, more specifically breast cancer, the most common malignant disease among women and the one that causes the most cancer deaths in the female population. The new study, published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, was carried out in the framework of the Spanish multicase-control study (MCC-Spain), co-financed by the CIBER of Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBERESP). The authors collected and analysed data from 1,738 patients with breast cancer and 1,900 participants with no history of the disease living in ten Spanish provinces (Asturias, Barcelona, Cantabria, Girona, Guipuzcoa, Huelva, Leon, Madrid, Navarre and Valencia).
Data on lifetime residential history, socio-economic level, lifestyle factors and levels of physical activity were obtained during interviews with each one of the participants. Information on proximity to urban green spaces or agricultural areas, air pollution levels, and population density was obtained by geo-codding the residential address of each participants.