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Crit Rev Toxicol. 2010 Nov;40(10):912-27. doi: 10.3109/10408444.2010.506641.

Cancer in experimental animals exposed to arsenic and arsenic compounds.

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National Toxicology Program, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and Laboratory of Comparative Carcinogenesis, National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA.


Inorganic arsenic is a ubiquitous environmental contaminant that has long been considered a human carcinogen. Recent studies raise further concern about the metalloid as a major, naturally occurring carcinogen in the environment. However, during this same period it has proven difficult to provide experimental evidence of the carcinogenicity of inorganic arsenic in laboratory animals and, until recently, there was considered to be a lack of clear evidence for carcinogenicity of any arsenical in animals. More recent work with arsenical methylation metabolites and early life exposures to inorganic arsenic has now provided evidence of carcinogenicity in rodents. Given that tens of millions of people worldwide are exposed to potentially unhealthy levels of environmental arsenic, in vivo rodent models of arsenic carcinogenesis are a clear necessity for resolving critical issues, such as mechanisms of action, target tissue specificity, and sensitive subpopulations, and in developing strategies to reduce cancers in exposed human populations. This work reviews the available rodent studies considered relevant to carcinogenic assessment of arsenicals, taking advantage of the most recent review by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that has not yet appeared as a full monograph but has been summarized (IARC, 2009 , IARC Special Report: Policy, Vol. 10. Lyon: IARC Press, 453–454). Many valid studies show that arsenic can interact with other carcinogens/agents to enhance oncogenesis, and help elucidate mechanisms, and these too are summarized in this review. Finally, this body of rodent work is discussed in light of its impact on mechanisms and in the context of the persistent argument that arsenic is not carcinogenic in animals.

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