(HealthDay News) — Arsenic in drinking water from private wells may explain the elevated bladder cancer risk among people in 3 New England states, according to a study published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers compared 1,213 newly diagnosed bladder cancer patients with 1,418 individuals without bladder cancer who lived in the same areas in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Participants provided information about known and suspected bladder cancer risk factors, such as smoking, occupation, ancestry, use of wood-burning stoves, and diet.

The team found that people who drank the most water from private wells had twice the risk of bladder cancer as those who drank the least (odds ratio, 2.24). This association was stronger among those who drank from dug wells, which are less than 50-feet deep and at greater risk for contamination.

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“Our findings support an association between low-to-moderate levels of arsenic in drinking water and bladder cancer risk in New England,” the authors write. “In addition, historical consumption of water from private wells, particularly dug wells in an era when arsenical pesticides were widely used, was associated with increased bladder cancer risk and may have contributed to the New England excess.”


  1. Baris D, Waddell R, Beane Freeman LE, et al. Elevated Bladder Cancer in Northern New England: The Role of Drinking Water and Arsenic. J Natl Cancer Inst (2016) 108 (9): djw099. doi:10.1093/jnci/djw099.