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Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2013 Jun;20(6):3923-31. doi: 10.1007/s11356-012-1335-9. Epub 2012 Nov 27.

Low-level arsenic exposure is associated with bladder cancer risk and cigarette smoking: a case-control study among men in Tunisia.

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  • 1Unit of Marine and Environmental Toxicology, IPEIS, Sfax University, BP 805, 3018, Sfax, Tunisia.


Although exposure to high levels of arsenic is associated with excess bladder cancer risk, lower exposures generally are not. This study represents the first biomonitoring of arsenic exposure in Tunisia and focuses on a possible association with bladder cancer risk. In this context, 124 male bladder cancer cases and 220 controls were recruited and blood samples were analyzed to determine the concentration of As. The study subjects were stratified into median groups based on concentrations of arsenic in their blood. Blood arsenic (B-As) was significantly two to threefold higher in bladder cancer cases than in controls (p<0.05). The arsenic concentrations were significantly higher among both smokers and workers in construction. However, neither drinking water nor seafood was found to be incriminated as exposure sources. The adjusted risk ratios for B-As concentration categories 0.1-0.67 and ≥ 0.67 μg/L were 0.18 (95% CI=0.014-2.95) and 2.44 (95% CI=1.11-5.35), respectively. Arsenic levels were not found to be associated with tumor grade or stage. The considerable risk in the category of highest cumulative exposure argues for an association between bladder cancer risk and low-level arsenic exposure. Future investigations with larger samples and using techniques that allow the distinction of the different arsenic species should better elucidate this association. Furthermore, the modulation of arsenic level according to the histological grade may be of potential to be used as a diagnostic marker of the disease process and its possible relationship etiologically.

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