Transplacental carcinogenicity of inorganic arsenic in the drinking water: induction of hepatic, ovarian, pulmonary, and adrenal tumors in mice

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2003 Jan 1;186(1):7-17. doi: 10.1016/s0041-008x(02)00022-4.


Arsenic is a known human carcinogen, but development of rodent models of inorganic arsenic carcinogenesis has been problematic. Since gestation is often a period of high sensitivity to chemical carcinogenesis, we performed a transplacental carcinogenicity study in mice using inorganic arsenic. Groups (n = 10) of pregnant C3H mice were given drinking water containing sodium arsenite (NaAsO(2)) at 0 (control), 42.5, and 85 ppm arsenite ad libitum from day 8 to 18 of gestation. These doses were well tolerated and body weights of the dams during gestation and of the offspring subsequent to birth were not reduced. Dams were allowed to give birth, and offspring were weaned at 4 weeks and then put into separate gender-based groups (n = 25) according to maternal exposure level. The offspring received no additional arsenic treatment. The study lasted 74 weeks in males and 90 weeks in females. A complete necropsy was performed on all mice and tissues were examined by light microscopy in a blind fashion. In male offspring, there was a marked increase in hepatocellular carcinoma incidence in a dose- related fashion (control, 12%; 42.5 ppm, 38%; 85 ppm, 61%) and in liver tumor multiplicity (tumors per liver; 5.6-fold over control at 85 ppm). In males, there was also a dose-related increase in adrenal tumor incidence and multiplicity. In female offspring, dose-related increases occurred in ovarian tumor incidence (control, 8%; 42.5 ppm, 26%; 85 ppm, 38%) and lung carcinoma incidence (control, 0%; 42.5 ppm, 4%; 85 ppm, 21%). Arsenic exposure also increased the incidence of proliferative lesions of the uterus and oviduct. These results demonstrate that oral inorganic arsenic exposure, as a single agent, can induce tumor formation in rodents and establishes inorganic arsenic as a complete transplacental carcinogen in mice. The development of this rodent model of inorganic arsenic carcinogenesis has important implications in defining the mechanism of action for this common environmental carcinogen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / pathology
  • Animals
  • Arsenic Poisoning / etiology*
  • Arsenites / toxicity*
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / etiology*
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / pathology
  • Female
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Sodium Compounds / toxicity*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Arsenites
  • Sodium Compounds
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • sodium arsenite