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Mol Biol Int. 2011;2011:718974. doi: 10.4061/2011/718974. Epub 2011 Aug 2.

Arsenic biotransformation as a cancer promoting factor by inducing DNA damage and disruption of repair mechanisms.

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


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.

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