The Journal of Bucharest College of Physicians and the Romanian Academy of Medical Sciences

Trace Elements and Cancer


The role of the trace elements in humans has increased during the last 20 years. It seems that they play a significant role in maintaining the healthy state of the organism. These minerals are present in small levels, but their role is vital. Although they account for only 0.02% of the total body weight, it has highlighted that they play significant roles, either as active centers of enzymes or as trace bioactive substances. Their excess or deficiency may influence the homeostasis and potentially can lead to several chronic diseases, including cancer. It is already known that certain elements in the free or combined state can be primary causative agents, or risk factors for human cancer. Nevertheless, it is important to underline that the carcinogenic elements are fewer than it was expected in studies. Copper, cobalt, chromium, zinc, selenium, are involved in many biochemical processes supporting life. However, their concentrations may play an important role in developing cancer, by influencing proliferation or apoptosis. Disruption of the balance between free radicals and antioxidants may cause a cellular damage and trigger carcinogenesis.