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Cancer incidence and soil arsenic exposure in a historical gold mining area in Victoria, Australia: A geospatial analysis

Abstract

Soil and mine waste around historical gold mining sites may have elevated arsenic concentrations. Recent evidence suggests some systemic arsenic absorption by residents in the goldfields region of Victoria, Australia. Victorian Cancer Registry and geochemical data were accessed for an ecological geographical correlation study, 1984–2003. Spatial empirical Bayes smoothing was applied when estimating standardised incidence ratios (SIRs) for cancers in 61 statistical local areas. The derived soil arsenic exposure metric ranged from 1.4 to 1857 mg/kg. Spatial autoregressive modelling detected increases in smoothed SIRs for all cancers of 0.05 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.02–0.08) and 0.04 (0.01–0.07) per 2.7-fold increase in the natural log-transformed exposure metric for males and females, respectively, in more socioeconomically disadvantaged areas; for melanoma in males (0.05 (0.01–0.08) adjusted for disadvantage) and females (0.05 (0.02–0.09) in disadvantaged areas). Excess risks were estimated for all cancers (relative risk 1.21 (95% CI, 1.15–1.27) and 1.08 (1.03–1.14)), and melanoma (1.52 (1.25–1.85) and 1.29 (1.08–1.55)), for males and females, respectively, in disadvantaged areas in the highest quintile of the exposure metric relative to the lowest. Our findings suggest small but significant increases in past cancer risk associated with increasing soil arsenic in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas and demonstrate the robustness of this geospatial approach.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a University of Ballarat Postgraduate Award. We thank the following organisations for provision of data used in this analysis: the Cancer Council Victoria for Victorian Cancer Registry data; Australian Bureau of Statistics for current and historical census data and digital boundaries; Australian Social Science Data Archive, Australian National University, for historic census data; GeoScience Victoria, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria, for the Victorian Geoscientific Data Package; University of Ballarat for geochemical data; Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering for INAA of soils under awards AINGRA04216 and AINGRA06051; and Spatial Information Infrastructure, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria, for Vicmap Digital Address Data.

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Pearce, D., Dowling, K. & Sim, M. Cancer incidence and soil arsenic exposure in a historical gold mining area in Victoria, Australia: A geospatial analysis. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 22, 248–257 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/jes.2012.15

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Keywords

  • cancer
  • soil
  • arsenic
  • exposure
  • geospatial

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