Arsenic and chromium levels in hair correlate with actinic keratosis/non melanoma skin cancer: results of an observational controlled study

Skin Cancer

G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2020 Sep 17. doi: 10.23736/S0392-0488.20.06600-6. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: The role of heavy metals in carcinogenetic process has been widely established however, information on the most common environmental metals that serve as major risk factors for actinic keratosis (AK)/non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) are still lacking. We aim to evaluate levels of the most common environmental heavy metals in hair of patients with AK/NMSC as compared to healthy controls.

METHODS: 31 patients diagnosed with AK/NMSC and 34 healthy controls were enrolled. Patients were interviewed for heavy metals exposure and underwent hair analysis for detection of arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), nickel (Ni) and lead (Pb). Continuous variables were analyzed using Wilcoxon non-parametric rank test and proportions were compared by Fisher exact test. Statistical significance was determined by p<0.05.

RESULTS: In our cohort we observed 48.4% patients had AKs, 16.1% basal cell carcinoma (BCC), 9.7% squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and 25.9% of patients presented with a combination of these lesions. There were significantly elevated levels of As and Cr in AKNMSC group as compared to controls.

CONCLUSIONS: We identified a strong positive correlation between As and Cr concentration and AK/NMSC adding new clues to the scenery of NMSC risk factors that should be taken under consideration in exposed populations.