Ultrafine particles (UFP; diameter less than or equal to 100 nm) may reach the brain via systemic circulation or the olfactory tract and have been implicated in the risk of brain tumors. The effects of airport-related UFP on the risk of brain tumors are not known. Here we determined the association between airport-related UFP and risk of incident malignant brain cancer (n = 155) and meningioma (n = 420) diagnosed during 16.4 years of follow-up among 75,936 men and women residing in Los Angeles County from the Multiethnic Cohort study. UFP exposure from aircrafts was estimated for participants who lived within a 53 km × 43 km grid area around the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) from date of cohort entry (1993–1996) through December 31, 2013. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate the effects of time-varying, airport-related UFP exposure on risk of malignant brain cancer and meningioma, adjusting for sex, race/ethnicity, education, and neighborhood socioeconomic status. Malignant brain cancer risk in all subjects combined increased 12% [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.98–1.27] per interquartile range (IQR) of airport-related UFP exposure (∼6,700 particles/cm3) for subjects with any address in the grid area surrounding the LAX airport. In race/ethnicity-stratified analyses, African Americans, the subgroup who had the highest exposure, showed a HR of 1.32 (95% CI, 1.07–1.64) for malignant brain cancer per IQR in UFP exposure. UFP exposure was not related to risk of meningioma overall or by race/ethnicity. These results support the hypothesis that airport-related UFP exposure may be a risk factor for malignant brain cancers.
Malignant brain cancer risk increases with airport-related UFP exposure, particularly among African Americans, suggesting UFP exposure may be a modifiable risk factor for malignant brain cancer.