Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Nov;124(11):1751-1758. Epub 2016 Jun 3.

Nitrate from Drinking Water and Diet and Bladder Cancer Among Postmenopausal Women in Iowa.

Author information

Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Bethesda, Maryland, USA.



Nitrate is a drinking water contaminant arising from agricultural sources, and it is a precursor in the endogenous formation of N-nitroso compounds (NOC), which are possible bladder carcinogens.


We investigated the ingestion of nitrate and nitrite from drinking water and diet and bladder cancer risk in women.


We identified incident bladder cancers among a cohort of 34,708 postmenopausal women in Iowa (1986-2010). Dietary nitrate and nitrite intakes were estimated from a baseline food frequency questionnaire. Drinking water source and duration were assessed in a 1989 follow-up. For women using public water supplies (PWS) > 10 years (n = 15,577), we estimated average nitrate (NO3-N) and total trihalomethane (TTHM) levels and the number of years exceeding one-half the maximum contaminant level (NO3-N: 5 mg/L, TTHM: 40 μg/mL) from historical monitoring data. We computed hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs), and assessed nitrate interactions with TTHM and with modifiers of NOC formation (smoking, vitamin C).


We identified 258 bladder cancer cases, including 130 among women > 10 years at their PWS. In multivariable-adjusted models, we observed nonsignificant associations among women in the highest versus lowest quartile of average drinking water nitrate concentration (HR = 1.48; 95% CI: 0.92, 2.40; ptrend = 0.11), and we found significant associations among those exposed ≥ 4 years to drinking water with > 5 mg/L NO3-N (HR = 1.62; 95% CI: 1.06, 2.47; ptrend = 0.03) compared with women having 0 years of comparable exposure. TTHM adjustment had little influence on associations, and we observed no modification by vitamin C intake. Relative to a common reference group of never smokers with the lowest nitrate exposures, associations were strongest for current smokers with the highest nitrate exposures (HR = 3.67; 95% CI: 1.43, 9.38 for average water NO3-N and HR = 3.48; 95% CI: 1.20, 10.06 and ≥ 4 years > 5 mg/L, respectively). Dietary nitrate and nitrite intakes were not associated with bladder cancer.


Long-term ingestion of elevated nitrate in drinking water was associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer among postmenopausal women. Citation: Jones RR, Weyer PJ, DellaValle CT, Inoue-Choi M, Anderson KE, Cantor KP, Krasner S, Robien K, Beane Freeman LE, Silverman DT, Ward MH. 2016. Nitrate from drinking water and diet and bladder cancer among postmenopausal women in Iowa. Environ Health Perspect 124:1751-1758;

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

This study was approved by the institutional review boards of the University of Minnesota and the University of Iowa. We thank J. Kantamneni of the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination at the University of Iowa for providing us with the public water supply data, and we also thank C.-P. Hong of the University of Minnesota and M. Butcher at Information Management Services for their programming support on this study. The authors declare they have no actual or potential competing financial interests.

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center