Background: In 1987, investigators in Liaoning Province, China, reported that mortality rates for all cancer, stomach cancer, and lung cancer in 1970–1978 were higher in villages with hexavalent chromium (Cr+6)-contaminated drinking water than in the general population. The investigators reported rates, but did not report statistical measures of association or precision.
Methods: Using reports and other communications from investigators at the local Jinzhou Health and Anti-Epidemic Station, we obtained data on Cr+6 contamination of groundwater and cancer mortality in 9 study regions near a ferrochromium factory. We estimated: (1) person-years at risk in the study regions, based on census and population growth rate data, (2) mortality counts, based on estimated person-years at risk and previously reported mortality rates, and (3) rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals.
Results: The all-cancer mortality rate in the combined 5 study regions with Cr+6-contaminated water was negligibly elevated in comparison with the rate in the 4 combined study regions without contaminated water (rate ratio = 1.13; 95% confidence interval = 0.86–1.46), but was somewhat more elevated in comparison with the whole province (1.23; 0.97–1.53). Stomach cancer mortality in the regions with contaminated water was more substantially elevated in comparison with the regions without contaminated water (1.82; 1.11–2.91) and the whole province (1.69; 1.12–2.44). Lung cancer mortality was slightly elevated in comparison with the unexposed study regions (1.15; 0.62–2.07), and more strongly elevated in comparison with the whole province (1.78; 1.03–2.87). Mortality from other cancers combined was not elevated in comparison with either the unexposed study regions (0.86; 0.53–1.36) or the whole province (0.92; 0.58–1.38).
Conclusions: While these data are limited, they are consistent with increased stomach cancer risk in a population exposed to Cr+6 in drinking water.