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Harvard School of Public Health

Superfund Research Program

Arsenic and Health in Taiwan and Bangladesh

Project Leader: David C. Christiani
Grant Number: P42ES005947
Funding Period: 2000 - 2006

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Project Summary (2000-2006)

Exposure to arsenic has been associated with the induction of cancer in humans. It is widely accepted that arsenic can cause non-melanoma skin cancers (in particular, squamous-cell carcinoma). In addition, arsenic exposure may be an important cause of bladder, lung, and other internal cancers. Project investigators are studying biomarkers of exposure to arsenic, skin lesions, skin and bladder cancer, and heritable susceptibility in two populations. One of the populations is in Taiwan, where remediation efforts have resulted in a reduction in arsenic exposure to ranges of one to three-fold more than those observed in most US communities. A second population is in Bangladesh, in an area recently described as having extremely high exposures from drinking-water contamination. Researchers are utilizing a population-based approach, incorporating markers of exposure (drinking-water arsenic, toenail arsenic), susceptibility (genetic polymorphisms in metabolizing genes), and outcome (squamous-cell carcinoma of the skin, bladder cancer, and non-malignant skin lesions). Evaluation of each of these factors will advance understanding of the human-health consequences of arsenic exposure.

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