Increased thyroid cancer incidence in a basaltic volcanic area is associated with non-anthropogenic pollution and biocontamination
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The increased thyroid cancer incidence in volcanic areas suggests an environmental effect of volcanic-originated carcinogens. To address this problem, we evaluated environmental pollution and biocontamination in a volcanic area of Sicily with increased thyroid cancer incidence. Thyroid cancer epidemiology was obtained from the Sicilian Regional Registry for Thyroid Cancer. Twenty-seven trace elements were measured by quadrupole mass spectrometry in the drinking water and lichens (to characterize environmental pollution) and in the urine of residents (to identify biocontamination) in the Mt. Etna volcanic area and in adjacent control areas. Thyroid cancer incidence was 18.5 and 9.6/105 inhabitants in the volcanic and the control areas, respectively. The increase was exclusively due to the papillary histotype. Compared with control areas, in the volcanic area many trace elements were increased in both drinking water and lichens, indicating both water and atmospheric pollution. Differences were greater for water. Additionally, in the urine of the residents of the volcanic area, the average levels of many trace elements were significantly increased, with values higher two-fold or more than in residents of the control area: cadmium (×2.1), mercury (×2.6), manganese (×3.0), palladium (×9.0), thallium (×2.0), uranium (×2.0), vanadium (×8.0), and tungsten (×2.4). Urine concentrations were significantly correlated with values in water but not in lichens. Our findings reveal a complex non-anthropogenic biocontamination with many trace elements in residents of an active volcanic area where thyroid cancer incidence is increased. The possible carcinogenic effect of these chemicals on the thyroid and other tissues cannot be excluded and should be investigated.
KeywordsThyroid cancer Volcanic area Trace elements Epidemiology Heavy metals
This work was supported by grants from the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (AIRC, Milan, Italy) to R.V. P.M. was supported by a fellowship from the “Giuseppe Alazio” Foundation, Palermo, Italy. Drs. G. Padova and V. D’Urso (Catania), Dr. M.C. Moleti (Messina), Drs. C.A. Maniglia and P. Richiusa (Palermo) contributed to case selection and urine sample collection. Thyroid cancer incidence data were obtained from the Sicilian Regional Registry for Thyroid Cancer co-ordinated by Dr. G. Pellegriti.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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