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Cancer Causes Control. 2001 Dec;12(10):909-16.

Arsenic in drinking water and skin cancers: cell-type specificity (Taiwan, ROC).

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Graduate Institute of Environmental and Occupational Health, College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan.



The association between arsenic ingestion and cancer has been documented for more than a century. Previous studies showed that the carcinogenic effects of arsenic on the urinary system are cell-type specific. To evaluate whether this is also true for skin cancers, we conducted an ecological study in 243 townships in Taiwan.


The arsenic exposure was assessed on the basis of measurement reports from a previous survey, and cases of skin cancer were identified using the information gathered by the National Cancer Registry Program. We analyzed the data by regression models using multiple variables to describe the exposure status, and an urbanization index was also included in the models to adjust for the effects of urbanization.


A total of 2369 patients with skin cancer, comprising 1415 men and 954 women, were registered between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 1989. Among the three major cell types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma appear to be associated with ingestion of arsenic. Such an association was not observed for malignant melanoma.


The results suggested that the carcinogenicity of arsenic on skin is cell-type specific, which is compatible with the findings in previous studies on urinary cancers.

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