Background: Nitrate is a drinking water contaminant arising from agricultural sources, and it is a precursor in the endogenous formation of N-nitroso compounds (NOC), which are possible bladder carcinogens. Objectives: We investigated the ingestion of nitrate and nitrite from drinking water and diet and bladder cancer risk in women. Methods: We identified incident bladder cancers among a cohort of 34,708 postmenopausal women in Iowa (1986-2010). Dietary nitrate and nitrite intakes were estimated from a baseline food frequency questionnaire. Drinking water source and duration were assessed in a 1989 follow-up. For women using public water supplies (PWS) > 10 years (n = 15,577), we estimated average nitrate (NO3-N) and total trihalomethane (TTHM) levels and the number of years exceeding one-half the maximum contaminant level (NO3-N: 5 mg/L, TTHM: 40 μg/mL) from historical monitoring data. We computed hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs), and assessed nitrate interactions with TTHM and with modifiers of NOC formation (smoking, vitamin C). Results: We identified 258 bladder cancer cases, including 130 among women > 10 years at their PWS. In multivariable-adjusted models, we observed nonsignificant associations among women in the highest versus lowest quartile of average drinking water nitrate concentration (HR = 1.48; 95% CI: 0.92, 2.40; ptrend = 0.11), and we found significant associations among those exposed ≥ 4 years to drinking water with > 5 mg/L NO3-N (HR = 1.62; 95% CI: 1.06, 2.47; ptrend = 0.03) compared with women having 0 years of comparable exposure. TTHM adjustment had little influence on associations, and we observed no modification by vitamin C intake. Relative to a common reference group of never smokers with the lowest nitrate exposures, associations were strongest for current smokers with the highest nitrate exposures (HR = 3.67; 95% CI: 1.43, 9.38 for average water NO3-N and HR = 3.48; 95% CI: 1.20, 10.06 and ≥ 4 years > 5 mg/L, respectively). Dietary nitrate and nitrite intakes were not associated with bladder cancer. Conclusions: Long-term ingestion of elevated nitrate in drinking water was associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer among postmenopausal women.
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