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Med Hypotheses. 2019 Mar;124:26-30. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2019.01.018. Epub 2019 Jan 24.

Depleted uranium induces human carcinogenesis involving the immune and chaperoning systems: Realities and working hypotheses.

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Department of Biomedicine, Neuroscience and Advanced Diagnostics, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy; Euro-Mediterranean Institute of Science and Technology (IEMEST), Palermo, Italy; Department of Biology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA. Electronic address:
Euro-Mediterranean Institute of Science and Technology (IEMEST), Palermo, Italy; Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of Maryland at Baltimore - Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), Baltimore, MD, USA.


Cancer is caused by a combination of factors, genetic, epigenetics and environmental. Among the latter, environmental pollutants absorbed by contact, inhalation, or ingestion are major proven or suspected culprits. Depleted uranium (DU) is one of them directly pertinent to the military and civilians working in militarized areas. It is considered a weak carcinogen but its implication in cancer development in exposed individuals is supported by various data. Since not all subjects exposed to DU develop cancer, it is likely that DU-dependent carcinogenesis requires cofactors, such as genetic predisposition and deficiencies of the chaperoning and immune systems. It is of the essence to adopt every possible protective measure as well as performing careful screening for early diagnosis to protect the military that work in war areas in which weapons with DU are, or have been, used. These topics are discussed here, along with a proposed working hypothesis for investigating the pathophysiology of DU-related carcinogenesis, including the possible role of the chaperoning system.


Bone marrow; Carcinogenic cofactors; Chaperoning system; Depleted uranium; Environmental pollutants; Genetic predisposition; Immune system; Microbiota; Molecular chaperones; Natural killer cell; Preventive measures

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