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Free Radic Res. 2011 Aug;45(8):906-17. doi: 10.3109/10715762.2011.564170. Epub 2011 May 26.

Iron as a target of chemoprevention for longevity in humans.

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Department of Pathology and Biological Responses, Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, Nagoya 466-8550, Japan.


Iron is universally abundant and no life can exist without it. However, iron levels should be maintained within a narrow range. Iron deficiency causes anaemia, whereas excessive iron increases cancer risk, presumably by free radical generation. Several pathological conditions such as genetic haemochromatosis, chronic viral hepatitis B and C, conditions related to asbestos fibre exposure and ovarian endometriosis have been recognized as iron overload-associated conditions that also increase human cancer risks. Iron's carcinogenicity has been documented in animal experiments. Surprisingly, these studies have revealed that the homozygous deletion of CDKN2A/2B is a major hallmark of iron-induced carcinogenesis. Recently, the hormonal regulation of iron metabolism has been elucidated. A commonly hypothesized mechanism may be the lack of any iron disposal pathway other than for bleeding and a mechanism of iron re-uptake as catechol chelate has been discovered. Iron overload in neurons via the ferroportin block may play a role in Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, a recent epidemiological study reported that iron reduction by phlebotomy was associated with decreased cancer risks in a general population. Given that the required amounts of iron decrease during ageing, the fine control of body iron stores would be a wise strategy for chemoprevention of several diseases.

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