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Blood Mercury Levels Linked to Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

Increased blood total mercury levels, methylmercury levels linked to increased odds of NMSC

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 5, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Blood mercury (Hg) levels are associated with nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC), according to a study published online Feb. 5 in the British Journal of Dermatology.

J. Rhee, from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and colleagues examined the association between blood Hg levels and NMSC using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2016. Data were included for 29,413 participants aged 20 years or older with information on blood mercury (blood total [tHg], inorganic [iHg], and methylmercury [MeHg]) and sociodemographic factors.

The researchers found that patients in the highest quartile of tHg (>1.74 µL−1) had nearly double the odds of NMSC compared with those in the lowest quartile (tHg ≤0.47 µL−1; odds ratio, 1.79). Those in the highest quartile of MeHg (>1.44 µL−1) also had significantly increased odds of NMSC compared with those in the lowest quartile (≤0.21 µL−1; odds ratio, 1.74). The investigators observed a nonsignificant positive association for iHg levels with NMSC.

“We found that higher blood tHg and MeHg levels were associated with a higher prevalence of NMSC,” the authors write. “Our findings add to the limited data from epidemiological studies supporting the role of Hg exposure in skin cancer.”

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