Superfund Research Program
Exposomics and Arsenic Epidemiology
Most water sources in Northern Chile are contaminated with arsenic. Because there are good records of historical arsenic concentrations on all of them, people’s lifetime exposure, from birth through adulthood, can be assessed with good accuracy. Data like these are not available anywhere else in the world. Arsenic is an established cause of cancer. It has been linked to diabetes, hypertension, and endocrine-related effects, but these associations are less clear. The researcher’s focus over the last reporting period has been in three main areas. First is the role of arsenic on the risks of prostate cancer. Current data regarding this outcome is mixed, although many past studies involve exposure levels that are likely too low to identify associations in a convincing manner. Analyses of data from the project’s incident prostate cancer case-control study, for which enrolment is now complete, is underway. In their Chile mortality study, the researchers found increased mortality in men highly exposed in childhood but not in later adulthood. Publications on both their incidence and mortality studies are in preparation. Second, the researchers have found that arsenic-related risks of diabetes are greater in people in lower socioeconomic groups (Eick SM et al., Environ Res. 2019 May;172:578-585, PMCID PMC7003534). The research team is currently assessing whether certain socioeconomic or race/ethnicity factors might impact the risks of arsenic-related disease. Finally, the researchers have been working on several laboratory studies to help gain insight into the mechanisms of arsenic-related disease, which are currently unknown. Publications on all of these areas are in progress.