Air pollution, mostly caused by transport, power generation, industrial or agricultural emissions and residential heating and cooking, is already known to raise risks for a wide range of illnesses including respiratory and heart diseases.
"We can't treat ourselves out of this cancer problem," said Chris Wild, who heads the WHO's cancer research wing, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Cleaner air would also have other health benefits. Air pollution increases the risk of bladder cancer, the IARC said. It has been known for a while that it contributes to heart disease and respiratory ailments.
The problem is global, but people in developing countries with large populations and booming manufacturing sectors with few pollution controls are said to be particularly at risk.
Although both the composition and levels of air pollution can vary dramatically from one location to the next, IARC said its conclusions applied to all regions of the world.
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