The research, published this Wednesday in the scientific journal ‘Environmental Health Perspectives’, analyzed two groups of patients. On the one hand, 679 people with prostate cancer diagnosed between 2008 and 2013. On the other hand, other 927 healthy men No relevant diagnoses. Both were asked about their lifestyle, place of residence and water consumption habits to find out, for example, what kind of diet they followed, how much they drank and whether it was from the bottle or the tap. From then on, the researchers calculated the average nitrate to which they were exposed in adult life. That is, from the age of 18.

The study finds a lower incidence of tumors among people who followed healthy habits

The analysis of these cases outlines the following scenario. People who have been exposed to higher amounts of water with nitrates were at increased risk of developing prostate cancer throughout your life. Exposure to these compounds, according to this analysis, could multiply by 1.6 the probability of developing a low- or medium-grade cancer and by 3 the probability of suffering a more aggressive tumor. This risk was especially prominent among people who followed other unhealthy habits like the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. In contrast, in people with high exposure to nitrates who maintained a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and vitamin C the risk of developing a tumor was lower.

Previous studies on exposure to nitrates have also found a certain relationship between the consumption of these substances and the risk of developing another type of cancer, such as bladder cancer. This means that we should stop drinking water to avoid exposure to nitrates? The answer is a definite no..

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“Ingesting nitrates through water does not imply that prostate cancer will develop”, clarifies the researcher Carolina Donat-Vargas, from ISGlobal, as the first author of this research. “This study, like many others, suggests that nitrates may be another risk factor for developing this disease, but that by itself doesn’t mean anything. We also know that the main risk factors for the development of cancer continue to be the consumption of alcohol and tobacco and that does not mean that all people who drink and smoke end up having a tumor”, highlights the scientist.

“Ingesting nitrates through water does not mean you will develop prostate cancer”

Carolina Donat-Vargas, researcher

the epidemiologist Javier del Aguilaof the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), also highlights the importance of put results in context of this type of study. “This type of study should not cause alarmism”, says the expert. “These investigations do not make it possible to establish a direct correlation between a cause and an effect. They only provide a first clue to assess the risk of certain substances and assume an incentive to continue research“, highlights the scientist in statements to EL PERIODICO.

“This type of study should not cause alarmism”

Javier del Águila, epidemiologist

In this sense, Donat-Vargas also agrees, who highlights the need to keep studying the possible effects of these substances on health. “What we hope is that this study, along with others, can contribute to the review of permitted levels of nitrate in water, in order to ensure that they do not pose a risk to human health”, stresses the expert. Currently, European directives establish a legal maximum of 50 milligrams of nitrate per liter of water.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), O main risk factors develop cancer are the tobacco and alcohol use, exposure to environmental pollution, or factors such as a high body mass index, lack of physical activity, or a diet high in ultra-processed foods and low in fruits and vegetables. The National Cancer Institute of the United States, in turn, also highlights the ‘burden’ factors such as age, family history or genetic alterations in the development of this type of disease.