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Journal of Skin Cancer
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 454157, 9 pages
Review Article

Induction of Human Squamous Cell-Type Carcinomas by Arsenic

Department of Integrative Oncology, BC Cancer Research Centre, 675 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Z 1L3

Received 2 August 2011; Accepted 7 October 2011

Academic Editor: Daniela Massi

Copyright © 2011 Victor D. Martinez et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Arsenic is a potent human carcinogen. Around one hundred million people worldwide have potentially been exposed to this metalloid at concentrations considered unsafe. Exposure occurs generally through drinking water from natural geological sources, making it difficult to control this contamination. Arsenic biotransformation is suspected to have a role in arsenic-related health effects ranging from acute toxicities to development of malignancies associated with chronic exposure. It has been demonstrated that arsenic exhibits preference for induction of squamous cell carcinomas in the human, especially skin and lung cancer. Interestingly, keratins emerge as a relevant factor in this arsenic-related squamous cell-type preference. Additionally, both genomic and epigenomic alterations have been associated with arsenic-driven neoplastic process. Some of these aberrations, as well as changes in other factors such as keratins, could explain the association between arsenic and squamous cell carcinomas in humans.