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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2010;73(12):807-18. doi: 10.1080/15287391003689267.

Trihalomethanes in drinking water and the risk of death from rectal cancer: does hardness in drinking water matter?

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Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, College of Health Sciences, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.


The objectives of this study were (1) to examine the relationship between total trihalomethanes (TTHM) levels in public water supplies and risk of rectal cancer development and (2) to determine whether calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) levels in drinking water might modify the effects of TTHM on risk of developing rectal cancer. A matched cancer case-control study was used to investigate the relationship between the risk of death attributed to rectal cancer and exposure to TTHM in drinking water in 53 municipalities in Taiwan. All rectal cancer deaths in the 53 municipalities from 1998 through 2007 were obtained from the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the Taiwan Provincial Department of Health. Controls were deaths from other causes and were pair-matched to cancer cases by gender, year of birth, and year of death. Each matched control was selected randomly from the set of possible controls for each cancer case. Data on TTHM levels in drinking water were collected from the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration. Information on the levels of Ca and Mg in drinking water was obtained from the Taiwan Water Supply Corporation. The municipality of residence for cancer cases and controls was presumed to be the source of the subject's TTHM, Ca, and Mg exposure via drinking water. Relative to individuals whose TTHM exposure level was <4.9 ppb, the adjusted OR (95% CI) for rectal cancer occurrence was 1.04 (0.88-1.22) for individuals who resided in municipalities served by drinking water with a TTHM exposure >or=4.9 ppb. There was no evidence of an interaction of drinking-water TTHM levels with low Ca intake via drinking water. However, evidence of an interaction was noted between drinking-water TTHM concentrations and Mg intake via drinking water. Our findings showed that the correlation between TTHM exposure and risk of rectal cancer is influenced by Mg in drinking water. Increased knowledge of the interaction between Mg and TTHM in reducing rectal cancer risk will aid in public policymaking and standard setting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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