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BioMed Research International
Volume 2016, Article ID 7825432, 10 pages
Review Article

Advances in Understanding How Heavy Metal Pollution Triggers Gastric Cancer

1Department of Oncology Surgery, First Hospital of Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
2The life Science School of Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China

Received 16 March 2016; Revised 14 September 2016; Accepted 19 September 2016

Academic Editor: Davor Zeljezic

Copyright © 2016 Wenzhen Yuan 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.


With the development of industrialization and urbanization, heavy metals contamination has become a major environmental problem. Numerous investigations have revealed an association between heavy metal exposure and the incidence and mortality of gastric cancer. The mechanisms of heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, and arsenic) contamination leading to gastric cancer are concluded in this review. There are four main potential mechanisms: (1) Heavy metals disrupt the gastric mucosal barrier by decreasing mucosal thickness, mucus content, and basal acid output, thereby affecting the function of E-cadherin and inducing reactive oxygen species (ROS) damage. (2) Heavy metals directly or indirectly induce ROS generation and cause gastric mucosal and DNA lesions, which subsequently alter gene regulation, signal transduction, and cell growth, ultimately leading to carcinogenesis. Exposure to heavy metals also enhances gastric cancer cell invasion and metastasis. (3) Heavy metals inhibit DNA damage repair or cause inefficient lesion repair. (4) Heavy metals may induce other gene abnormalities. In addition, heavy metals can induce the expression of proinflammatory chemokine interleukin-8 (IL-8) and microRNAs, which promotes tumorigenesis. The present review is an effort to underline the human health problem caused by heavy metal with recent development in order to garner a broader perspective.