Utility of recent studies to assess the National Research Council 2001 estimates of cancer risk from ingested arsenic

Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Mar;119(3):284-90. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002427. Epub 2010 Oct 28.


Objective: The purpose of this review is to evaluate the impact of recent epidemiologic literature on the National Research Council (NRC) assessment of the lung and bladder cancer risks from ingesting low concentrations (< 100 µg/L) of arsenic-contaminated water.

Data sources, extraction, and synthesis: PubMed was searched for epidemiologic studies pertinent to the lung and bladder cancer risk estimates from low-dose arsenic exposure. Articles published from 2001, the date of the NRC assessment, through September 2010 were included. Fourteen epidemiologic studies on lung and bladder cancer risk were identified as potentially useful for the analysis.

Conclusions: Recent epidemiologic studies that have investigated the risk of lung and bladder cancer from low arsenic exposure are limited in their ability to detect the NRC estimates of excess risk because of sample size and less than lifetime exposure. Although the ecologic nature of the Taiwanese studies on which the NRC estimates are based present certain limitations, the data from these studies have particular strengths in that they describe lung and bladder cancer risks resulting from lifetime exposure in a large population and remain the best data on which to conduct quantitative risk assessment. Continued follow-up of a population in northeastern Taiwan, however, offers the best opportunity to improve the cancer risk assessment for arsenic in drinking water. Future studies of arsenic < 100 µg/L in drinking water and lung and bladder cancer should consider adequacy of the sample size, the synergistic relationship of arsenic and smoking, duration of arsenic exposure, age when exposure began and ended, and histologic subtype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / toxicity*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • National Academy of Sciences, U.S.*
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Arsenic