Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 5952–5960 | Cite as

Urinary thiocyanate concentrations are associated with adult cancer and lung problems: US NHANES, 2009–2012

  • Ivy ShiueEmail author
Research Article


Links between environmental chemicals and human health have emerged but the effects from perchlorate, nitrate and thiocyanate were unclear. Therefore, it was aimed to study the relationships of urinary perchlorate, nitrate and thiocyanate concentrations and adult health conditions in a national and population-based study. Data was retrieved from US National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 2009–2012, including demographics, blood pressure readings, self-reported health conditions and urinary perchlorate, nitrate and thiocyanate concentrations. Analyses included chi-square test, t test survey-weighted logistic regression models and population attributable risk estimation. There were no clear associations between urinary perchlorate concentrations and adult health conditions, although people with hearing loss and diabetes could be at the borderline risk. Urinary thiocyanate concentrations were significantly associated with emphysema (odds ratio (OR) 2.70 95% confidence intervals (CI) 1.91–3.82, P < 0.001), cancer (OR 1.21 95%CI 1.06–1.39, P = 0.008), chronic bronchitis (OR 1.23 95%CI 1.10–1.52, P = 0.003), wheezing (OR 1.24 95%CI 1.05–1.46, P = 0.011), coughing (OR 1.19 95%CI 1.03–1.37, P = 0.018) and sleep complaints (OR 1.14 95%CI 1.02–1.26, P = 0.019). The population attributable risks accounted for 3.3 % (1.8–5.3 %), 1.9 % (0.6–3.5 %), 1.2 % (0.5–2.6 %), 2.2 % (0.5–4.1 %), 1.8 % (0.3–6.2 %) and 1.3 % (0.2–2.4 %) for emphysema, cancer, chronic bronchitis, wheezing, coughing and sleep complaints, respectively. In addition, there was an inverse association observed between urinary nitrate level and heart failure. This is for the first time observing significant risk effects of urinary thiocyanate concentrations on adult cancer and lung problems, although the causality cannot be established. Elimination of such environmental chemical in humans should be included in future health policy and intervention programs.


Lung Chemicals Environmental health Risk factor Cancer Population attributable risk Chronic bronchitis Respiratory 



IS is supported by the Global Platform for Research Leaders scheme.

Conflict of interest



  1. Beier RC (1990) Natural pesticides and bioactive components in foods. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 113:47–137Google Scholar
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2012) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, []
  3. Ciancarelli I, De Amicis D, Di Massimo C, Carolei A, Ciancarelli MG (2012) Oxidative stress in post-acute ischemic stroke patients after intensive neurorehabilitation. Curr Neurovasc Res 9:266–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fadel PJ, Farias Iii M, Gallagher KM, Wang Z, Thomas GD (2012) Oxidative stress and enhanced sympathetic vasoconstriction in contracting muscles of nitrate-tolerant rats and humans. J Physiol 590(2):395–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fathi AR, Pluta RM, Bakhtian KD, Qi M, Lonser RR (2011) Reversal of cerebral vasospasm via intravenous sodium nitrite after subarachnoid hemorrhage in primates. J Neurosurg 115:1213–1220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fleiss JL (1979) Inference about population attributable risk from cross-sectional studies. Am J Epidemiol 110:103–104Google Scholar
  7. Gorman WF, Messinger E, Herman M (1949) Toxicity of thiocyanates used in treatment of hypertension. Ann Intern Med 30:1054–1059CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gupta D, Georgiopoulou VV, Kalogeropoulos AP, Marti CN, Yancy CW, Gheorghiade M, Fonarow GC, Konstam MA, Butler J (2013) Nitrate therapy for heart failure: benefits and strategies to overcome tolerance. JACC Heart Fail 1:183–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hartley L, Igbinedion E, Holmes J, Flowers N, Thorogood M, Clarke A, Stranges S, Hooper L, Rees K (2013) Increased consumption of fruit and vegetables for the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 6:CD009874Google Scholar
  10. Heliövaara M, Karvonen MJ, Punsar S, Rautanen Y, Haapakoski J (1981) Serum thiocyanate concentration and cigarette smoking in relation to overall mortality and to deaths from coronary heart disease and lung cancer. J Chronic Dis 34:305–311CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hu D, Huang J, Wang Y, Zhang D, Qu Y (2014) Fruits and vegetables consumption and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Stroke 45:1613–1619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kapil V, Webb AJ, Ahluwalia A (2010) Inorganic nitrate and the cardiovascular system. Heart 96:1703–1709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lijinsky W, Kovatch RM (1989) Chronic toxicity tests of sodium thiocyanate with sodium nitrite in F344 rats. Toxicol Ind Health 5:25–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lundberg JO, Weitzberg E, Gladwin MT (2008) The nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway in physiology and therapeutics. Nat Rev Drug Discov 7:156–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ruddell WS, Bone ES, Hill MJ, Blendis LM, Walters CL (1976) Gastric-juice nitrite a risk factor for cancer in the hypochlorhydric stomach? Lancet 2:1037–1039CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ruddell WS, Blendis LM, Walters CL (1977) Nitrite and thiocyanate in the fasting and secreting stomach and in saliva. Gut 18:73–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Shiue I (2013a) Urine phthalate concentrations are higher in people with stroke: United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), 2001–2004. Eur J Neurol 20:728–731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Shiue I (2013b) Association of urinary arsenic, heavy metal, and phthalate concentrations with food allergy in adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–2006. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 111:421–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Shiue I (2013c) Urinary environmental chemical concentrations and vitamin D are associated with vision, hearing, and balance disorders in the elderly. Environ Int 53:41–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Shiue I (2014) Higher urinary heavy metal, phthalate, and arsenic but not parabens concentrations in people with high blood pressure, U.S. NHANES, 2011–2012. Int J Environ Res Public Health 11:5989–5899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Shiue I, Arima H, Hankey GJ, Anderson CS (2011) Dietary intake of key nutrients and subarachnoid hemorrhage: a population-based case–control study in Australasia. Cerebrovasc Dis 31:464–470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Staalsø JM, Bergström A, Edsen T, Weikop P, Romner B, Olsen NV (2013) Low plasma arginine: asymmetric dimethyl arginine ratios predict mortality after intracranial aneurysm rupture. Stroke 44:1273–1281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Threapleton DE, Greenwood DC, Evans CE, Cleghorn CL, Nykjaer C, Woodhead C, Cade JE, Gale CP, Burley VJ (2013) Dietary fiber intake and risk of first stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Stroke 44:1360–1368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Upadhyay G, Singh R, Agarwal G, Mishra SK, Pal L, Pradhan PK, Das BK, Godbole MM (2003) Functional expression of sodium iodide symporter (NIS) in human breast cancer tissue. Breast Cancer Res Treat 77:157–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Vanstone M, Giacomini M, Smith A, Brundisini F, DeJean D, Winsor S (2013) How diet modification challenges are magnified in vulnerable or marginalized people with diabetes and heart disease: a systematic review and qualitative meta-synthesis. Ont Health Technol Assess Ser 13:1–40Google Scholar
  26. Venturi S, Venturi A, Cimini D, Arduini C, Venturi M, Guidi A (1993) A new hypothesis: iodine and gastric cancer. Eur J Cancer Prev 2:17–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wakai A, McCabe A, Kidney R, Brooks SC, Seupaul RA, Diercks DB, Salter N, Fermann GJ, Pospisil C (2013) Nitrates for acute heart failure syndromes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 8:CD005151Google Scholar
  28. Woodside JV, Young IS, McKinley MC (2013) Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cardiovascular disease. Proc Nutr Soc 72:399–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Xu Y, Szép S, Lu Z (2009) The antioxidant role of thiocyanate in the pathogenesis of cystic fibrosis and other inflammation-related diseases. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:20515–20519CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of the Built EnvironmentHeriot-Watt UniversityEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Owens Institute for Behavioral ResearchUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

Personalised recommendations