The increased thyroid cancer incidence in vol- canic areas suggests an environmental effect of volcanic- originated carcinogens. To address this problem, we eval- uated environmental pollution and biocontamination in a volcanic area of Sicily with increased thyroid cancer incidence. Thyroid cancer epidemiology was obtained from the Sicilian Regional Registry for Thyroid Cancer. Twenty- seven trace elements were measured by quadrupole mass spectrometry in the drinking water and lichens (to char- acterize environmental pollution) and in the urine of resi- dents (to identify biocontamination) in the Mt. Etnavolcanic area and in adjacent control areas. Thyroid cancer incidence was 18.5 and 9.6/105 inhabitants in the volcanic and the control areas, respectively. The increase was exclusively due to the papillary histotype. Compared with control areas, in the volcanic area many trace elements were increased in both drinking water and lichens, indi- cating both water and atmospheric pollution. Differences were greater for water. Additionally, in the urine of the residents of the volcanic area, the average levels of many trace elements were significantly increased, with values higher two-fold or more than in residents of the control area: cadmium (92.1), mercury (92.6), manganese (93.0), palladium (99.0), thallium (92.0), uranium (92.0), vana- dium (98.0), and tungsten (92.4). Urine concentrations were significantly correlated with values in water but not in lichens. Our findings reveal a complex non-anthropogenic biocontamination with many trace elements in residents of an active volcanic area where thyroid cancer incidence is increased. The possible carcinogenic effect of these chemicals on the thyroid and other tissues cannot be excluded and should be investigated.
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