Heme oxygenase (HO)-1 is upregulated by many stressful stimuli, including arsenic. A GT-repeat ((GT)n) polymorphism in the HO-1 gene promoter inversely modulates the levels of HO-1 induction. Previous HO-1 (GT)n polymorphism studies in relation to cancer risk have shown disparate results. We prospectively investigated the associations between HO-1 (GT)n polymorphism and cancer risk related to arsenic from drinking water. Totally, 1,013 participants from community-based cohorts of arseniasis-endemic areas in Taiwan were followed for 13 years. Allelic polymorphisms were classified into long (L, ≥27 (GT)n) and short (S, 300 μg/L) had a greater risk of skin cancer compared to the genotype alone. Consistent with previous findings, participants with the S-allele had a reduced risk of lung adenocarcinoma (HR = 0.21; 95% CI: 0.03-0.68) versus those with L/L genotype. There were no significant differences in risk of urothelial carcinoma among the three genotypes. Associations of HO-1 (GT)n polymorphism with cancer risk differs by histological subtype and the polymorphism should be considered a modifier in the risk assessment of arsenic exposure.
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