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Additive Effects of Air Pollution Exposure, Genetic Risk in Atrial Fibrillation Development

Investigators in China have examined how genetic factors and long-term air pollution exposure together affect atrial fibrillation (AF) risk. In their study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers included 401,251 participants without AF at baseline from the UK Biobank and estimated each participant's exposure to air pollutants — PM2.5, PM10, NO2, and NOx — at their residential addresses. Meanwhile, the participants' genetic data was obtained from the UK Biobank, which the researchers used to construct a polygenic risk score for AF. They found that long-term exposure to air pollutants was associated with an increased risk of AF. But they also found that the combined effects of genetic risk and air pollutants had an additive effect — approximately 16 percent to 35 percent of AF risk can be explained by the additive effects of co-exposure to high air pollutants and high genetic risk. "Our findings suggest that improving air quality will benefit the entire population, especially those at high levels of genetic risk, which has a potential guiding significance for the primary prevention of AF," the researchers add.