For over a century, chromium (Cr) has found widespread industrial and commercial use, namely as a pigment, in the production of stainless steel and in chrome plating. The adverse health effects to the skin and respiratory tract of prolonged exposure to Cr have been known or suspected for a long time, but it was much more recently that the toxicity of this element was unequivocally attributed to its hexavalent state. Based on the combined results of extensive epidemiological studies, animal carcinogenicity studies and several types of other relevant data, authoritative regulatory agencies have found sufficient evidence to classify hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] compounds as encountered in the chromate production, chromate pigment production and chromium plating industries as carcinogenic to humans. Crucial for the development of novel strategies to prevent, detect and/or treat Cr(VI)-induced cancers is a detailed knowledge of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying these pathologies. Unfortunately, in spite of a considerable research effort, crucial facets of these mechanisms remain essentially unknown. This review is intended to provide a concise, integrated and critical perspective of the current state of knowledge concerning multiple aspects of Cr(VI) carcinogenesis. It will present recent theories of Cr(VI)-induced carcinogenesis and will include aspects not traditionally covered in other reviews, such as the possible involvement of the energy metabolism in this process. A brief discussion on the models that have been used in the studies of Cr(VI)-induced carcinogenicity will also be included, due to the impact of this parameter on the relevance of the results obtained.
Keywords: Chromate, carcinogenesis, bronchial, pigment, chrome plating, hexavalent state, carcinogenicity studies, epidemiological studies, cellular mechanisms, chromite ore, oxidation states, octahedral geometry, kinetically inert