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The cancer prevalence in the Malwa region of Punjab (1089/million/year) is much higher than the national average cancer prevalence in India (800/million/year). The participants in the present study were 50 healthy individuals and 49 cancer patients all living in the Malwa region of Punjab, with the healthy people being selected from the same household as the cancer patients. High concentrations of several potentially toxic elements were found in hair samples from people living in Punjab. Compared to standard reference ranges, the metals in excess in both the control and patient groups were aluminum (Al), barium (Ba), manganese (Mn), strontium (Sr) and uranium (U). The most significant findings were high lead (Pb), U and Ba concentrations. The maximum values for Ba, Mn, Pb and U were found in hair from breast cancer patients. The mean concentration of U in hair from the breast cancer patients was 0.63 µg U/g, which is more than double the value found in the control group and over six times higher than the reference range of 0.1 µg U/g. Water, soil, and phosphate fertilizers all seem to play a potential role, causing an increased metal burden in Punjabi people living in the Malwa region. The present study indicates that metals, and especially U, may be a factor in the development of breast cancer among Punjabi women.
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