The impact of diet and betel nut use on skin lesions associated with drinking-water arsenic in Pabna, Bangladesh

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Journal Article
Environmental Health Perspectives, 2006, 114 (3), pp. 334 - 340
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An established exposure-response relationship exists between water arsenic levels and skin lesions. Results of previous studies with limited historical exposure data, and laboratory animal studies suggest that diet may modify arsenic metabolism and toxicity. In this study, we evaluated the effect of diet on the risk of arsenic-related skin lesions in Pabna, Bangladesh. Six hundred cases and 600 controls loosely matched on age and sex were enrolled at Dhaka Community Hospital, Bangladesh, in 2001-2002. Diet, demographic data, and water samples were collected. Water samples were analyzed for arsenic using inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy. Betel nut use was associated with a greater risk of skin lesions in a multivariate model [odds ratio (OR) = 1.67; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.18-2.36]. Modest decreases in risk of skin lesions were associated with fruit intake 1-3 times/month (OR = 0.68; 95%CI, 0.51-0.89) and canned goods at least 1 time/month (OR = 0.41; 95% CI, 0.20-0.86). Bean intake at least 1 time/day (OR = 1.89; 95% CI, 1.11-3.22) was associated with increased odds of skin lesions. Betel nut use appears to be associated with increased risk of developing skin lesions in Bangladesh. Increased intake of fruit and canned goods may be associated with reduced risk of lesions. Increased intake of beans may be associated with an increased risk of skin lesions. The results of this study do not provide clear support for a protective effect of vegetable and overall protein consumption against the development of skin lesions, but a modest benefit cannot be excluded.
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