Drinking water mutagenicity and gastrointestinal and urinary tract cancers: an ecological study in Finland

Am J Public Health. 1994 Aug;84(8):1223-8. doi: 10.2105/ajph.84.8.1223.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between exposure to mutagenic drinking water and cancers of the gastrointestinal and urinary tract.

Methods: Past exposure to drinking water mutagenicity was assessed in 56 Finnish municipalities for the years 1955 and 1970. The cases of bladder, kidney, stomach, colon, and rectum cancers were derived from two periods (1967 to 1976 and 1977 to 1986). Age, sex, social class, urban living, and time period were taken into account in the Poisson regression analysis.

Results: Statistically significant exposure-response association was observed between exposure and incidence of bladder, kidney, and stomach cancers. In an ordinary municipality using chlorinated surface water, this exposure would indicate a relative risk of 1.2 for bladder cancer and of 1.2 to 1.4 for kidney cancer compared with municipalities where nonmutagenic drinking water was consumed.

Conclusions: The acidic mutagenic compounds present in drinking water may play a role in the etiology of kidney and bladder cancers, but, because the results are based on aggregate data, they should be interpreted with caution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chlorine / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Linear Models
  • Mutagens / adverse effects*
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Risk Factors
  • Urban Population
  • Urologic Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Urologic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Water Supply* / analysis


  • Mutagens
  • Chlorine