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Cancer incidence and high environmental arsenic concentrations in rural populations: results of an ecological study

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A number of ecological studies have suggested associations between arsenic in drinking water and increased rates of some cancers. To investigate associations in areas with high environmental arsenic concentrations, geographical areas with surface soil inorganic arsenic concentrations of >100 mg/kg and/ or drinking water arsenic concentrations >0.01 mg/l were selected and the relationship with cancer incidence explored. Standardised incidence rates (SIRs) for cancer were generated for 22 areas between 1982 and 1991 using Victorian Cancer Registry data and Victorian cancer rates as a baseline. SIRs were also generated for combined areas according to environmental exposure type, i.e. whether an area had high soil and/or high water arsenic concentrations. The SIRs for both males and females for the combined 22 areas were increased for all cancers 1.06 (95% confidence interval, CI; 1.03-1.09), prostate cancer 1.14 (1.05-1.23), kidney cancer 1.16 (0.98-1.37), melanoma 1.36 (1.24-1.48), chronic myeloid leukemia 1.54 (1.13-2.10) and breast cancer in females 1.10 (1.03-1.18). When stratifying into exposure categories, the SIR for prostate cancer was significant at 1.20 (1.06-1.36) for the high soil/high water category only. No significant dose- response relationship between drinking water and individual cancers was observed. Of the a priori cancers associated with environmental arsenic exposure, only prostate cancer incidence was significantly elevated in this study. This result was likely confounded by a number of factors and was limited by low power and exposure misclassification.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 1999

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