Tumor Biology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 1265–1274 | Cite as

Environmental factors in causing human cancers: emphasis on tumorigenesis

  • Umesh T. Sankpal
  • Hima Pius
  • Moeez Khan
  • Mohammed I. Shukoor
  • Pius Maliakal
  • Chris M. Lee
  • Maen Abdelrahim
  • Sarah F. Connelly
  • Riyaz Basha


The environment and dietary factors play an essential role in the etiology of cancer. Environmental component is implicated in ~80 % of all cancers; however, the causes for certain cancers are still unknown. The potential players associated with various cancers include chemicals, heavy metals, diet, radiation, and smoking. Lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption, exposure to certain chemicals (e.g., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, organochlorines), metals and pesticides also pose risk in causing human cancers. Several studies indicated a strong association of lung cancer with the exposure to tobacco products and asbestos. The contribution of excessive sunlight, radiation, occupational exposure (e.g., painting, coal, and certain metals) is also well established in cancer. Smoking, excessive alcohol intake, consumption of an unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity can act as risk factors for cancer and also impact the prognosis. Even though the environmental disposition is linked to cancer, the level and duration of carcinogen-exposure and associated cellular and biochemical aspects determine the actual risk. Modulations in metabolism and DNA adduct formation are considered central mechanisms in environmental carcinogenesis. This review describes the major environmental contributors in causing cancer with an emphasis on molecular aspects associated with environmental disposition in carcinogenesis.


Environmental factors Carcinogenesis Nicotine Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons 



Authors greatly appreciate the financial and technical support provided by the MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando's Cancer Research Institute.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers (ISOBM) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Umesh T. Sankpal
    • 1
  • Hima Pius
    • 1
    • 2
  • Moeez Khan
    • 1
    • 3
  • Mohammed I. Shukoor
    • 1
  • Pius Maliakal
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chris M. Lee
    • 1
  • Maen Abdelrahim
    • 1
    • 4
  • Sarah F. Connelly
    • 1
  • Riyaz Basha
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Cancer Research InstituteMD Anderson Cancer Center OrlandoOrlandoUSA
  2. 2.College of MedicineFlorida State UniversityOrlandoUSA
  3. 3.College of MedicineUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA
  4. 4.Texas A&M Health Science CenterCollege of MedicineCollege StationUSA

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