Environmental arsenic may lead to increased cancer risk

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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.

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.

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