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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2013;76(2):120-30. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2013.738410.

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

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Department of Health Care Administration, I-Shou University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.


The objectives of this study were to (1) examine the relationship between total trihalomethanes (TTHM) levels in public water supplies and risk of esophageal cancer occurrence and (2) determine whether calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) levels in drinking water modify the effects of TTHM on risk to develop esophageal cancer. A matched case-control study was used to investigate the relationship between the risk of death attributed to esophageal cancer and exposure to TTHM in drinking water in 53 municipalities in Taiwan. All esophageal cancer deaths in the 53 municipalities from 2006 through 2010 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 the 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 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 <4.9 ppb, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) for esophageal cancer was 1.02 (0.84-1.23) for individuals who resided in municipalities served by drinking water with a TTHM exposure ≥4.9 ppb. There was evidence of an interaction between drinking-water TTHM levels and low Ca and Mg intake. Our findings showed that the correlation between TTHM exposure and risk of esophageal cancer development was influenced by Ca and Mg levels in drinking water. This is the first study to report effect modification by Ca and Mg intake from drinking water on the correlation between TTHM exposure and risk of esophageal cancer occurrence. Increased knowledge of the interaction between Ca, Mg, and TTHM in reducing risk of esophageal cancer development will aid in public policymaking and standard setting for drinking water.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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