Table of Contents
Molecular Biology International
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 718974, 11 pages
Review Article

Arsenic Biotransformation as a Cancer Promoting Factor by Inducing DNA Damage and Disruption of Repair Mechanisms

1Department of Integrative Oncology, BC Cancer Research Centre, 675 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Z 1L3
2Biomedical Sciences Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Independencia 1027, 8380453 Santiago, Chile

Received 16 March 2011; Accepted 6 June 2011

Academic Editor: Frédéric Coin

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.


Chronic exposure to arsenic in drinking water poses a major global health concern. Populations exposed to high concentrations of arsenic-contaminated drinking water suffer serious health consequences, including alarming cancer incidence and death rates. Arsenic is biotransformed through sequential addition of methyl groups, acquired from s-adenosylmethionine (SAM). Metabolism of arsenic generates a variety of genotoxic and cytotoxic species, damaging DNA directly and indirectly, through the generation of reactive oxidative species and induction of DNA adducts, strand breaks and cross links, and inhibition of the DNA repair process itself. Since SAM is the methyl group donor used by DNA methyltransferases to maintain normal epigenetic patterns in all human cells, arsenic is also postulated to affect maintenance of normal DNA methylation patterns, chromatin structure, and genomic stability. The biological processes underlying the cancer promoting factors of arsenic metabolism, related to DNA damage and repair, will be discussed here.