Environmental nanoparticles are significantly over-expressed in acute myeloid leukemia

Leuk Res. 2016 Nov:50:50-56. doi: 10.1016/j.leukres.2016.09.004. Epub 2016 Sep 3.


The increase in the incidence of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) may suggest a possible environmental etiology. PM2.5 was declared by IARC a Class I carcinogen. No report has focused on particulate environmental pollution together with AML. The study investigated the presence and composition of particulate matter in blood with a Scanning Electron Microscope coupled with an Energy Dispersive Spectroscope, a sensor capable of identifying the composition of foreign bodies. 38 peripheral blood samples, 19 AML cases and 19 healthy controls, were analyzed. A significant overload of particulate matter-derived nanoparticles linked or aggregated to blood components was found in AML patients, while almost absent in matched healthy controls. Two-tailed Student's t-test, MANOVA and Principal Component Analysis indicated that the total numbers of aggregates and particles were statistically different between cases and controls (MANOVA, P<0.001 and P=0.009 respectively). The particles detected showed to contain highly-reactive, non-biocompatible and non-biodegradable metals; in particular, micro- and nano-sized particles grouped in organic/inorganic clusters, with statistically higher frequency of a subgroup of elements in AML samples. The demonstration, for the first time, of an overload of nanoparticles linked to blood components in AML patients could be the basis for a possible, novel pathogenetic mechanism for AML development.

Keywords: Acute myeloid leukemia; Environmental pollution; Forensic pathology; Metals; Nanoparticles; Oxidation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Chemical Analysis
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / epidemiology
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / etiology*
  • Male
  • Metals / blood
  • Nanoparticles / adverse effects*
  • Nanoparticles / analysis


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals