Mercury in Pancreatic Cells of People with and without Pancreatic Cancer.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International journal of environmental research and public health, 2020, 17, (23)
Issue Date:
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Toxic metals have been implicated in the pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer. Human exposure to mercury is widespread, but it is not known how often mercury is present in the human pancreas and which cells might contain mercury. We therefore aimed to determine, in people with and without pancreatic cancer, the distribution and prevalence of mercury in pancreatic cells. Paraffin-embedded sections of normal pancreatic tissue were obtained from pancreatectomy samples of 45 people who had pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and from autopsy samples of 38 people without pancreatic cancer. Mercury was identified using two methods of elemental bio-imaging: (1) With autometallography, inorganic mercury was seen in islet cells in 14 of 30 males (47%) with pancreatic cancer compared to two of 17 males (12%) without pancreatic cancer (p = 0.024), and in 10 of 15 females (67%) with pancreatic cancer compared to four of 22 females (19%) without pancreatic cancer (p = 0.006). Autometallographic mercury was present in acinar cells in 24% and in periductal cells in 11% of people with pancreatic cancer, but not in those without pancreatic cancer. (2) Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry confirmed the presence of mercury in islets that stained with autometallography and detected cadmium, lead, chromium, iron, nickel and aluminium in some samples. In conclusion, the genotoxic metal mercury is found in normal pancreatic cells in more people with, than without, pancreatic cancer. These findings support the hypothesis that toxic metals such as mercury contribute to the pathogenesis of pancreatic cancer.
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