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Lung tumor promotion by chromium-containing welding particulate matter in a mouse model
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    Background

    Epidemiology suggests that occupational exposure to welding particulate matter (PM) may increase lung cancer risk. However, animal studies are lacking to conclusively link welding with an increased risk. PM derived from stainless steel (SS) welding contains carcinogenic metals such as hexavalent chromium and nickel. We hypothesized that welding PM may act as a tumor promoter and increase lung tumor multiplicity in vivo. Therefore, the capacity of chromium-containing gas metal arc (GMA)-SS welding PM to promote lung tumors was evaluated using a two-stage (initiation-promotion) model in lung tumor susceptible A/J mice.

    Methods

    Male mice (n = 28-30/group) were treated either with the initiator 3-methylcholanthrene (MCA;10 μg/g; IP) or vehicle (corn oil) followed by 5 weekly pharyngeal aspirations of GMA-SS (340 or 680 μg/exposure) or PBS. Lung tumors were enumerated at 30 weeks post-initiation.

    Results

    MCA initiation followed by GMA-SS welding PM exposure promoted tumor multiplicity in both the low (12.1 ± 1.5 tumors/mouse) and high (14.0 ± 1.8 tumors/mouse) exposure groups significantly above MCA/sham (4.77 ± 0.7 tumors/mouse; p = 0.0001). Multiplicity was also highly significant (p < 0.004) across all individual lung regions of GMA-SS-exposed mice. No exposure effects were found in the corn oil groups at 30 weeks. Histopathology confirmed the gross findings and revealed increased inflammation and a greater number of malignant lesions in the MCA/welding PM-exposed groups.

    Conclusions

    GMA-SS welding PM acts as a lung tumor promoter in vivo. Thus, this study provides animal evidence to support the epidemiological data that show welders have an increased lung cancer risk.