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Metal interactions in carcinogenesis: enhancement, inhibition

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  • Medicine


Metals constitute a fundamentally important part of the total human environment. Since human exposure often involves complex mixtures of metal compounds and, possibly, organic compounds which may be carcinogenic per se, interactions between these compounds may add significantly to human cancer risk. Our present knowledge about these kinds of interactions is very limited. The best investigated area is benzo(a)pyrene (BP)-metal oxide particle interactions in respiratory carcinogenesis in the hamster. Metal oxide particles were also shown to modify the carcinogenic effect of nitrosamines. Several reports describe experiments in which selenium compounds exerted a generally anticarcinogenic and antimutagenic activity. Inorganic arsenic compounds, which are accepted to be carcinogenic in man, have so far been negative in animal experiments except for one recent suggested report. Several authors have, however, suggested that these compounds may act as cocarcinogens due to their inhibition of DNA repair, although animal experiments to demonstrate a cocarcinogenic effect of arsenic compounds have been negative so far, except for one preliminary report. The concentration of zinc in the diet seemed to influence both transplanted tumor growth and the carcinogenicity of several organic compounds, and the possibility of a correlation between dietary zinc and certain cancer forms in man has been suggested. Protection against development of Leydigiomas usually induced by cadmium injection was afforded by simultaneous injection of zinc salts. Nickel carcinogenesis has been reported to be antagonized by manganese, and synergism between Ni and organic carcinogens, e.g. BP, has been demonstrated. There is no firm evidence that lead may be a cocarcinogen, although some limited experimental evidence is available. Oxidizing agents have been demonstrated to increase, and reducing agents to antagonize, the mutagenic effect of chromium compounds in vitro. The content of carcinogenic and other metals in asbestos has been suggested to modify the carcinogenic properties of asbestos. Since much of the information available at present is suggestive, further research on these interactions as well as other possible interactions in metal carcinogenesis is needed. Studies should be made both in well defined in vitro systems and in relevant animal models.

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