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J Cell Physiol. 2019 Dec 15. doi: 10.1002/jcp.29399. [Epub ahead of print]

Blood screening for heavy metals and organic pollutants in cancer patients exposed to toxic waste in southern Italy: A pilot study.

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Cell Biology and Biotherapy Unit, Istituto Nazionale Tumori-IRCCS-Fondazione G. Pascale, I-80131, Napoli, Italy.
Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine, Center for Biotechnology, College of Science and Technology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, PA 19122, USA.
ASL Napoli 2 Nord, Via Lupoli, Frattamaggiore, Naples, Italy.
SS Farmacologia clinica e Farmacoeconomia-Istituto Nazionale Tumori-IRCCS-Fondazione G. Pascale, I-80131, Napoli, Italy.
Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Productions, University of Naples "Federico II,", Napoli, Italy.
Scientific Direction, Istituto Nazionale Tumori-IRCCS-Fondazione G. Pascale, I-80131, Napoli, Italy.
Department of Medical Biotechnologies, University of Siena, Italy.


In Italy, in the eastern area of the Campania region, the illegal dumping and burning of waste have been documented, which could potentially affect the local population's health. In particular, toxic waste exposure has been suggested to associate with increased cancer development/mortality in these areas, although a causal link has not yet been established. In this pilot study, we evaluated blood levels of toxic heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in 95 patients with different cancer types residing in this area and in 27 healthy individuals. While we did not find any significant correlation between the blood levels of POPs and the provenance of the patients, we did observe high blood concentrations of heavy metals in some municipalities, including Giugliano, where many illegal waste disposal sites have previously been documented. Our results showed that patients with different cancer types from Giugliano had higher blood levels of heavy metals than healthy controls. Despite the obvious limitations of this exploratory study, our preliminary observations encourage further research assessing the possible association between exposure to hazardous waste, increased blood metals, and increased risk of cancer.


POPs; cancer; environmental pollution; heavy metals; land of fires


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