The Malwa region of Punjab leads India in growing grains, and leads India in high cancer rates. Excessive use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides has led to water and soil contamination. The cancers are related to gender, as well as to agricultural.
Genetic factors increase breast cancer rates, but toxic minerals, such as cadmium (Cd), are risk factors in breast and several other types of cancers. Cadmium alters estrogen receptor levels, inhibits enzymes, and alters DNA synthesis, and DNA repair. Lead (Pb) and Cd are found in fruit and vegetables grown in soil that has been contaminated. Plant foods, spices, and plant-derived beverages are the source of 90% of potentially toxic metals. Contaminated water may contain heavy metals, fluoride, and pesticides.
In Malwa, 42% of drinking water samples contained uranium levels above the acceptable level (60 mcg./L). The federal agency in Germany has lowered acceptable level to below 10 mcg./L. Also, uranium has low levels of background radiation, and phosphate fertilizers may contain uranium.
The study reviewed here evaluated toxic and essential mineral levels by hair analysis in Malwa cancer patients and normal patients in another region. Hair analysis “…is a reliable test for detecting environmental and occupational exposure”. High levels of toxic metals on hair analysis indicate chronic exposure.
Fifty healthy people and 49 cancer patients living in the Malwa region were studied. Primarily, the cancer group had breast, esophageal, uterine, or various other cancers. Hair samples were tested for aluminum (Al), arsenic (As), barium (Ba), cadmium (Cad), manganese (Mn), lead (Pb), strontium (Sr), and uranium (U). The most common uranium isotope in nature is U-238.
Results showed that levels were high in people living in Punjab for Al, Ba, Mn, Sr, and U. Breast cancer patients had the highest U levels at 6 times the acceptable level. Breast cancer patients showed the highest mean level for Pb, U, Mn, and Ba. The highest levels of Ba were seen in breast cancer patients, while normal subjects did show some elevated levels.
The healthy groups showed the highest levels of Al, As, Cd, and Sr (believed to be at risk for disease by the authors, and the patient’s health should be followed). They were generally younger, and may face serious health problems in the future.
CONCLUSION: Water, soil, and phosphate fertilizers are risks to people of the Malwa region of Punjab. Pb and U can cause oxidative stress and DNA damage in humans. The study reviewed shows that Mn, Pb, and U may be risk factors for breast cancer of women in Punjab. All patients studied by hair analysis showed multiple toxic metal levels, even healthy controls. They all may be at risk for health problems in the future.
Changes in agricultural practices and detoxification treatments must be undertaken. Larger studies by government agencies and medical institutions must be done to aid support to the above findings.
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