Background: Heavy metal pollution in farm soils is a grave concern in Taiwan. Previously, we found the incidence of oral cancer (OC) correlated positively with levels of nickel and arsenic in farm soils. Many OC patients have a second malignancy, among which esophageal cancer (EC) is the most common one in Taiwan. Objectives: We aimed to investigate whether these two cancers share some common risk factors. Methods: Taiwan began a compulsory national health insurance program in 1995. We used a database from this program to calculate the prevalence of EC and OC in Taiwan. We compared the prevalence of EC with prevalence of betel nut chewers in adults and the information of heavy metal in farm soils to look for any association. Results: The prevalence of OC and prevalence of EC were strongly correlated. The prevalence of betel nut chewing correlated with OC prevalence, but not with EC prevalence. An increased prevalence (1.9 fold) of EC was found where the farm soils contained high levels of nickel. Meanwhile, among the eight heavy metals studied, only the levels of nickel in the farm soils correlated statistically with the prevalence of EC. Conclusion: Nickel is probably a common environmental risk factor for esophageal cancer and oral cancer.
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