Urinary nitrate and sodium in a high-risk area for upper gastrointestinal cancers: Golestan Cohort Study


Background: The epidemiological evidence regarding the carcinogenicity of nitrate and sodium in drinking water is limited, partly because measuring the exposure at the individual level is complex. Most studies have used nitrate in water supplies as a proxy for individual exposure, but dietary intakes and other factors may contribute to the exposure. The present study investigates the factors associated with urinary nitrate and sodium in a high-risk area for esophageal and gastric cancers.

Methods: For this cross-sectional study, we used data and samples collected in 2004-2008 during the enrollment phase of the Golestan Cohort Study from a random sample of 349 participants (300 individuals from 24 rural villages and 49 from the city of Gonbad), stratified by average water nitrate in their district, the source of drinking water, and the usual dietary intake of nitrate and sodium. Nitrate, sodium, and creatinine were measured in a spot urine sample collected at the time of interview. We used the provincial cancer registry data to calculate the cumulative incidence rates of esophageal and gastric cancers for each location through June 1, 2020, and used weighted partial Pearson correlation to compare the incidence rates with median urinary nitrate and sodium in each village or the city.

Results: Among 349 participants (mean age±SD: 50.7 ± 8.6 years), about half (n = 170) used groundwater for drinking, and the use of ground water was significantly more common in high-elevation locations (75.8%). The geometric mean of the creatinine-corrected urinary nitrate concentration was 68.3 mg/g cr (95%CI: 64.6,72.3), and the corresponding geometric mean for urinary sodium was 150.0 mmoL/g cr (95%CI: 139.6161.1). After adjusting for confounders, urinary nitrate was associated with being a woman, drinking groundwater, and living in high-elevation locations, but not with estimated dietary intake. Urinary sodium concentration was significantly associated with monthly precipitation at the time of sampling but not with elevation or drinking water source. There were significant positive correlations between both median urinary nitrate and sodium in each location and esophageal cancer incidence rates adjusted for sex and age (r = 0.65 and r = 0.58, respectively, p < 0.01), but not with gastric cancer incidence.

Conclusion: In a rural population at high risk for esophageal and gastric cancers, nitrate excretion was associated with living at a higher elevation and using groundwater for drinking. The associations between nitrate and sodium excretion with esophageal cancer incidence warrant future investigation.

Authors: Arash Etemadi, Ian D Buller, Maryam Hashemian, Gholamreza Roshandel, Hossein Poustchi, Maria Morel Espinosa, Benjamin C Blount, Christine M Pfeiffer, Behnam Keshavarzi, Abigail R Flory, Siavosh Nasseri-Moghaddam, Sanford M Dawsey, Neal D Freedman, Christian C Abnet, Reza Malekzadeh, Mary H Ward
; Full Source: Environmental research 2022 Jul 18;113906. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.113906.