A cancer prevention study, funded by the Canadian Cancer Society’s new Prevention Initiative, will investigate the risk of bladder and kidney cancer associated with environmental exposure to arsenic in drinking water. The study is one of 71 new research grants announced today by the Canadian Cancer Society.

Dr. Louise Parker, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, is the Canadian Cancer Society Endowed Chair in Population Cancer Research. She will receive $575,000 over three years to carry out a study of cancer risk and drinking water quality. “In many parts of Canada, a large proportion of the population gets its drinking water from untreated water wells,” says Dr. Parker. “In Nova Scotia, it’s particularly high, with 45 per cent of households relying on well water.”

Dr Parker will examine the cancer risk of low to moderate levels of arsenic in drinking water. She says the research will help policy-makers in Nova Scotia and elsewhere in Canada decide whether the cancer risk warrants new approaches to water testing and treatment.

Arsenic levels of up to 700 micrograms per litre have been reported at some wells in Nova Scotia. Health Canada has set an acceptable upper limit of 10 micrograms per litre of water.

Dr. Parker will carry out the study by using extensive data on bladder and kidney cancer rates in Nova Scotia and mapping these data to different measurements of arsenic accumulation in participants’ bodies and in their drinking water.

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