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Every year, about 208,500 new cases of kidney cancer are reported throughout the world, most commonly in Northern America. The disease in its various forms kills about 13,010 people in the United States in 2008 alone. The causes of kidney cancer— as for most types of cancer— are many and varied. But recently, the disease has been attributed to certain forms of contamination in drinking water. These include arsenic and radon.

Arsenic is one of the greatest health hazards found in nature. According to a report by the International Journal of Epidemiology, studies done in Córdoba, Argentina— a community with a history of arsenic in its drinking water— have revealed a high incidence of deaths from cancers of the kidneys, lungs, liver, skin, and bladder. In particular, chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic (In-As) is known to have a variety of adverse effects on health. A study of populations in southwestern Taiwan, where In-As is known to be present in deep water wells, showed notable increases in the mortality rate from kidney and other cancers among those who had ingested doses of 170- 180 μg / l. (A microgram (μg) is one-millionth of a gram.) Similarly, in the period from 1950 to 2000, when arsenic-infested river water began to be used for drinking in various regions, including Chile, the mortality rate from kidney cancer began to soar. And biological experiments done on pregnant mice exposed to arsenic have shown kidney tumors in their babies.

Just how arsenic causes this disease is not well understood, though some doctors believe that apoptosis (type 1 programmed cell death; in effect a form of "cellular suicide") is involved; and the National Research Council Report on Arsenic in Drinking Water has concluded that arsenic disrupts mitosis, which results in anaphase delay.

Radon is a radioactive noble (inert) gas. It, too, has been linked to kidney cancer by some recent correlation studies and can be found in both the air and in drinking water.

There are some other possible sources of contamination that may have an effect on the kidney. In 2004, the American Journal of Industrial Medicine reported that constant inhalation of granite dust by people in Vermont who work with that rock may lead to kidney cancer. Obviously, HEPA air filters with activated carbon would be beneficial in this situation.

The kidney is one of the most important organs in the human body. Like all internal organs, it can be adversely affected by some of the chemicals and heavy metals that are found in the water and air. In the case of water, people should install a water filter that can remove the toxic and radioactive pollutants that can cause illness and disease. This simple act should greatly reduce a person's chance of developing kidney problems or kidney cancer.

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