Explosive increases in skin cancers have been reported in more than 36 million patients with arsenicosis caused by drinking arsenic-polluted well water. This study and previous studies showed high levels of barium as well as arsenic in the well water. However, there have been no reports showing a correlation between barium and cancer. In this study, we examined whether barium (BaCl 2) may independently have cancer-related effects on human precancerous keratinocytes (HaCaT). Barium (5-50 μM) biologically promoted anchorage-independent growth and invasion of HaCaT cells in vitro. Barium (5 μM) biochemically enhanced activities of c-SRC, FAK, ERK and MT1-MMP molecules, which regulate anchorage-independent growth and/or invasion. A SRC kinase specific inhibitor, protein phosphatase 2 (PP2), blocked barium-mediated promotion of anchorage-independent growth and invasion with decreased c-SRC kinase activity. Barium (2.5-5 μM) also promoted anchorage-independent growth and invasion of fibroblasts (NIH3T3) and immortalized nontumorigenic melanocytes (melan-a), but not transformed cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (HSC5 and A431) and malignant melanoma (Mel-ret) cells, with activation of c-SRC kinase. Taken together, our biological and biochemical findings newly suggest that the levels of barium shown in drinking well water independently has the cancer-promoting effects on precancerous keratinocytes, fibroblast and melanocytes in vitro.
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