Despite indications from animal studies, long-term exposure to nitrates in drinking water does not raise the risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to newly published findings from the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland. However, the risk may be increased with the consumption of dietary nitrite from animal products.
N-Nitroso compounds, known animal carcinogens, are formed (internally) from drinking water and dietary sources of nitrate and nitrite. This prompted the researchers to look at whether increased intake of nitrate and nitrite from water and diet was associated with pancreatic cancer risk.
The research group linked detailed water source histories with nitrate measurements from Iowa community water supplies. They then compared 189 people from the area who had pancreatic cancer with 1244 "control" subjects without cancer.
The risk of pancreatic cancer did not rise with increasing nitrate consumption from drinking water. In fact, increased intake was associated with a decreased risk in women, but not in men. Conversely, higher levels of dietary nitrite from animal sources was linked with an elevated risk of pancreatic cancer.
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