An Overview of Carcinogenic Heavy Metal: Molecular Toxicity Mechanism and Prevention

J Cancer Prev. 2015 Dec;20(4):232-40. doi: 10.15430/JCP.2015.20.4.232. Epub 2015 Dec 30.


Almost all heavy metals are serious toxicants as carcinogens. However, due to their chemical and physiological properties, heavy metals are useful in industrial areas including alloy, smelting and production of commercial products. Such applications increase the opportunity for heavy metal exposure. Waste from industrial processes is also a major source of environmental contamination and accumulation in the human body. Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and nickel are classified as group 1 carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and are utilized commercially. In this review, we used molecular pathway analysis to understand the toxicity and carcinogenic mechanisms of these metals. Our analyzed data showed that above-mentioned metallic substances induce oxidative stress, DNA damage, and cell death processes, resulting in increase the risk of cancer and cancer-related diseases. Thus, we might think phytochelatin molecules and antioxidative phytochemical substances are helpful for prevention of heavy metal-induced cancer.

Keywords: Cancer prevention; Carcinogenic heavy metals; Molecular mechanism; Pathway analysis.

Publication types

  • Review