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Medline ® Abstract for Reference 62

of 'Metaplastic (chronic) atrophic gastritis'

Are nitrates a significant risk factor in human cancer?
Forman D
Cancer Surv. 1989;8(2):443.
This article focuses on the relationship between exposure to nitrates in the environment and subsequent risk of human cancer. The question of whether or not nitrates represent a cancer hazard is one of the most important public health issues arising from research into N-nitroso compounds. The reason for concern results from the endogenous reduction of nitrate to nitrite and subsequent nitrosation of amines, amides and proteins to give rise to carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. The human evidence relating nitrate exposure to cancer, especially gastric cancer, has been largely based on geographic correlation studies, a relatively weak form of epidemiological methodology. In sum, this evidence and that from a small number of individually based studies does not support the hypothesis of a straightforward cause and effect association between nitrate exposure and cancer risk. Because many other factors besides nitrate are involved in the endogenous formation of N-nitrosation compounds, it is possible that exposure to nitrate is not a rate-limiting factor in most circumstances. This makes the setting of regulatory standards for nitrate exposure from the environment a complex issue.
Imperial Cancer Research Fund, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford.