Individuals who are exposed to arsenic may have a greater risk of developing adverse health effects, including bladder cancer, according to the results of a study published in Cancer Research (2010 Feb 23. [Epub ahead of print]).

According to the press release announcing the findings, studies to date have shown that individuals who live in arsenic-contaminated areas of the world experience elevated cancer rates.

To gain insight into arsenic-driven tumors, a team of researchers, led by Margaret Karagas, PhD, professor in the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School, focused their study on Hedgehog, a key oncogenic signaling pathway, and used experimental data from cell cultures and the results of epidemiologic studies.

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Results from the study revealed that at environmentally relevant levels, arsenic was associated with arsenic-associated diseases. Researchers observed an increase in Hedgehog activity in a large number of human bladder tumors. Furthermore, among the cohort of bladder cancer patients, they detected a significant correlation between high-level Hedgehog activity and arsenic exposure.

“We provide important insight into the etiology of arsenic-induced disease, potentially relevant to the millions of people worldwide who are exposed to arsenic,” stated Dr Karagas.