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Wednesday, August 3, 2011
In a recent report posted in the Journal of Urology, it was suggested that persons with elevated levels of arsenic in the urine may also be at risk of developing kidney cancer. The risk increases if the person also has high blood pressure or any other form of kidney disease.

Researchers say the cancer may be brought on because of the kidney's inability to effectively filter waste, which in turns leads to arsenic building up in the urine.

Arsenic is found in soil, rock, air and water. It is also released through industrial activities, and may be found in many products like paints, dyes and fertilizers.

Exposure to high arsenic levels can lead to cancer. Some studies have linked even moderate levels of arsenic within the body to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. In general, however, the potential health effects of long-term, low-level arsenic exposure still remain uncertain.

In this new study, researchers studied the relationship between urinary arsenic levels and the risk of kidney cancer within persons living in an area with low arsenic concentrations in the drinking water. Arsenic levels within the study locale ranged from undetectable to 4 micrograms per liter.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set an allowable maximum limit of 10 micrograms per liter, and most U.S. drinking-water supplies have levels below that.

The study recruited 132 patients with kidney cancer and compared those people with 260 cancer-free adults who were in the same age range.

The findings suggest that there was an association between higher levels of urinary arsenic and higher odds of kidney cancer, according to Dr. Yu-Mei Hsueh of Taipei Medical University and his colleagues.

The connection seems strongest for people who had either high blood pressure or impaired kidney function. These have both been established as risk factors for kidney cancer.

For study participants who had both of these conditions plus high arsenic levels in their urine, their odds of kidney cancer were six times higher than those who had none of the three risk factors.

Those with any two of the risk factors had a four-fold increase in risk for kidney cancer.

According to Hsueh's team, the exposure to arsenic in the drinking water may have led to high blood pressure or kidney disease which in turn contributed to their kidney cancer.

It is estimated that over 12 million Americans live in areas where the public water supply routinely exceeds the maximum limit of 10 micrograms per liter. Private water wells might also contain too much arsenic, and this may be especially true in areas of the West, Midwest and New England where water from aquifers and wells often contain high concentrations of arsenic.

SOURCE: Journal of Urology, June 2011.

by: Chris Tracey


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