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Cancer spreading in Bihar due to arsenic in ground water: Experts

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Photo: http://www.ugandacancersociety.org

Patna: The high level of arsenic in the ground water is causing and spreading cancer on either side of the Ganga in Bihar, according to experts.

The most affected are the poorest of the poor. A K Ghosh, a Patna-based arsenic expert, said a large number of cases had been reported from the districts along the river.

“It’s a matter of serious concern,” Ghosh, professor at the department of environment and water management at AN college, Patna, told IANS. He has conducted several arsenic field surveys in the last ten years.

According to a 2014 study by Ghosh, 18 of the 38 districts of Bihar were affected by ground water arsenic. The worst affected districts were Bhojpur, Buxar, Vaishali, Bhagalpur and Samastipur.

Scientists at the Patna-based Mahavir Cancer Sansthan (MCS) said in their latest research study that arsenic had been found in tissues of patients suffering from cancer. The source of the offending chemical element was drinking water, they stated.

The scientists concluded that the probability of two types of cancer (skin and gall bladder) was due to ingestion of drinking water in which arsenic presence was more than 300 parts per billion (ppb).

Their research also said arsenic increases the possibility of DNA damage. The MCS study was based on 200 cancer patients from Bhojpur, Vaishali and Buxar.

The study, headed by Dr Arun Kumar observed that arsenic might not be the single factor in causing cancer, but its effect gets multiplied when combined with other carcinogens.

According to an official report by the state health department, around 75,000 new cancer cases are detected annually in Bihar.

Of these, the highest number of cases is reported from districts affected by arsenic.

Ghosh said that several patients often moved out of Bihar for treatment, making it difficult to identify the exact number of cases in the state.

A cancer specialist, Dr A J K Singh said arsenic poisoning was one of the main factors for cancer of prostate, liver, and gall bladder in the state, adding that the poorest were hit hard by it.

Singh said the government should join hands with different organizations to get rid of arsenic from drinking water.

Water samples collected at random from 44,000 tubewells by officials in affected districts found that arsenic concentration was above the World Health Organisation’s permissible limit of 10 ppb in most of them. The Indian government’s guidelines peg the permissible limit at 50 ppb.

The highest level of concentration was found in Bhojpur at 1,861 ppb, followed by Buxar at 1,230 ppb and Bhagalpur at 915 ppb. Even Patna district had a very high incidence of 760 ppb.

Last year, a state government report, based on a survey of water samples collected from 19,961 tubewells in 398 villages, found that arsenic concentration was above 10 ppb in 310 villages and above 50 ppb in 235 villages.

Bihar’s Minister for Public Health Department Krishnanandan Prasad Verma told the state Assembly last week that 13 districts in the Gangetic plain had more arsenic content than the permissible limit of 50 ppb.

Experts say a large number of hand pumps in Bihar need to be painted red – warning against use – and sealed.

Arsenic was also finding its way into agricultural products like rice, tomato, maize, wheat and spinach. Often, over-extraction of water through hand pumps worsened the situation by raising the concentration levels.

The source of arsenic, according to experts, was stationed from the Himalayas which gets deposited downstream through the Ganga. In its natural form of arsenopyrite (iron arsenic sulfide), it is insoluble in water.

Arsenic, an odorless and tasteless semi-metal element, occurs naturally in the environment and is sometimes deposited as a by-product of agriculture processing and industrial use. (IANS)

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Gut Microbiota Can Help Identify Liver Cancer: Researchers

Gut microbiota can help the body digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest.

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Liver Cancer
How gut microbiota can aid in early diagnosis of liver cancer.

Chinese researchers have identified gut microbiota as a new biomarker of liver cancer, that can help in early diagnosis as well as treatment of the condition.

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer and the third leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide.

Due to the absence of specific symptoms in early stages and the lack of diagnostic markers, most patients with HCC are often diagnosed in an advanced stage.

Liver Cancer
AFP is a plasma protein that is produced in abundance by the liver cells. Pixabay

Researchers from China’s Zhejiang University, and Zhengzhou University, found that the microbial diversity in patients with cirrhosis was significantly lower than that in healthy people, but it increased when cirrhosis develops into cancer, the Xinhua reported.

Human gut microbiota has been considered the most important micro-ecosystem living with the body, containing tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1,000 species of bacteria with more than 3 million genes.

Gut microbiota can help the body digest certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest.

Liver Cancer
A high-magnification image from a 2012 glioblastoma case is seen as an example in this College of American Pathologists image released from Northfield. VOA

For the study, appearing in the journal Gut, the team collected 486 fecal samples from across the country.

Also Read: Deaths Due to Cancer Increases to More Than 18 Mn Every Year: WHO

About 12 bacteria genera decreased and six increased in patients with early cancer compared with healthy people.

According to researchers, more data and further studies are needed to confirm the validity and reliability of the model. (IANS)