Association of soil arsenic and nickel exposure with cancer mortality rates, a town-scale ecological study in Suzhou, China

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2015 Apr;22(7):5395-404. doi: 10.1007/s11356-014-3790-y. Epub 2014 Nov 21.


Heavy metals and arsenic are well-known carcinogens. However, few studies have examined whether soil heavy metals and arsenic concentrations associate with cancer in the general population. In this ecological study, we aimed to evaluate the association of heavy metals and arsenic in soil with cancer mortality rates during 2005-2010 in Suzhou, China, after controlling for education and smoking prevalence. In 2005, a total of 1683 soil samples with a sampling density of one sample every 4 km(2) were analyzed. Generalized linear model with a quasi-Poisson regression was applied to evaluate the association between town-scale cancer mortality rates and soil heavy metal concentrations. Results showed that soil arsenic exposure had a significant relationship with colon, gastric, kidney, lung, and nasopharyngeal cancer mortality rates and soil nickel exposure was significantly associated with liver and lung cancer. The associations of soil arsenic and nickel exposure with colon, gastric, kidney, and liver cancer in male were higher than those in female. The observed associations of soil arsenic and nickel with cancer mortality rates were less sensitive to alternative exposure metrics. Our findings would contribute to the understanding of the carcinogenic effect of soil arsenic and nickel exposure in general population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Arsenic Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Nickel / analysis*
  • Nickel / poisoning
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Soil Pollutants / poisoning


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Nickel
  • Arsenic