J Cancer Prev 2023; 28(1): 1-2
Published online March 30, 2023
© Korean Society of Cancer Prevention
1Cancer and Translational Research Lab, Dr. D.Y. Patil Biotechnology & Bioinformatics Institute, Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, 2Department of Oral Pathology and Microbiology, Dr. D. Y. Patil Dental College and Hospital, Dr. D.Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, India
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
The human environment hosts natural wealth as well as man-made wastes. Among various forms of environmental waste, electronic (e)-waste includes various forms of silicon including dehydrogenated amorphous silicon, hydrogenated amorphous silicon, microcrystalline silicon, and polycrystalline silicon. These forms of silicon are widely used as a component of photovoltaic solar power cells and processors in electronic components including mobile phones, laptops, and various other artificial intelligence (AI) enabled gadgets [1-3]. It is interesting to wonder about health effects of the carbon world (humans and other organisms) that is created by Nature. However, the earth’s crust is full of silicon elements and compounds from silica including sand, stone, etc. But nature prefers carbon over silicon due to its inherent atomic properties to build the biological world over the electronic world. Since the evolution of the carbon world, the silicon world has existed in the form of natural materials and other environmental components.
The existing forms of silicon are fabricated and humanized at the interface of the carbon world. Now, humans have created other silicon-derived electronic components including AI gadgets, electronic components, and health-related products such as silica-based nano-drug delivery systems [1-3]. Besides potential threats of various components from e-waste, increasingly processed various forms of silicon including amorphous and crystalline contamination to the carbon world may pose a great threat to various human health issues including a high chance of cancer [3-5]. Earlier, thoughts were proposed on the relationship between silicon and lung cancer. However, understanding the link between silica and lung cancer was not clear. The extent of widespread uses of silicon components in the current time warrants a rethinking of the association between silicon and cancer. We propose an explanation that silicon in various forms including electronics and health products may easily cross the cell membrane barriers. After entering the intra- and inter-cellular compartment, silicon may undergo dimerization. Potentially, microcrystalline silicon may be converted into silicon tetraoxide (silicate ions) [4-6].
Currently it is considered that a tumor is heterogeneous [7,8]. Further, the origin of cancer is known as a complex process and is influenced by various forms of chemical, physical and biological agents. In this view, changing the landscape of the environment with the accumulation of modified and new forms of chemicals poses a crucial group of factors that pushes towards carcinogenesis. We propose that various forms of silicon generated in our environment can represent the potential contributing factors in the formation of cancer.
Among various possibilities for tissue alterations, the presence of various forms of silicon within the tissue system may contribute to hypoxia, fibrosis, and silicosis in various tissue environments including the lung. Health hazards due to amorphous silica are reported to cause pulmonary disorders including fibrosis and silicosis [5,6,8,9]. Despite knowledge of silica and health, there is highly limited progress in the understanding of implications of various forms of silicon presence within the tissue environment that may push towards pro-tumor settings. Hence, futuristic propositions look into the potential contaminating role of silicon and tissue fibrosis that eventually may be a potential factor behind the initiation of cancer.
Various forms of silicon are naturally hydrophilic [1-4]. Therefore, the presence of amorphous and crystalline forms of silicon in intra- and extracellular fluids of tissue systems may be able to disturb the natural environment that allows the functioning of molecules and enzymes. In another way, there is an urgent need of understating the effects of diverse silicon forms at the molecular and cellular levels that could be responsible for the cellular alterations in favor of the initiation of cancer. Another thought is that the structure of silicon-derived silicon dioxide and silicon tetraoxide is branched and not linear like CO2. Furthermore, the presence of silicon at intra- and extracellular levels may change the well-known carbonate-bicarbonate buffer system that supports the functioning of cellular systems.
With increasing uses of nano-drugs, nano-dressings, nano-probes, and several other forms of devices in the human body system, humans are potentially exposed to various forms of silicon that may potentially predispose to disease conditions including cancer [5-10]. Clinical research is warranted to evaluate the extent of tissue fibrosis and other forms of histopathological alterations in humans exposed to silicon-based nano-drugs, nano-dressings, nano-probes, and nano-devices.
In summary, exposure of humans to several different forms of silicon accumulated in our environment may drive development of cancer. Various forms of silicon exposure and the eventual formation of a silicon tetraoxide-contaminated tissue environment may explain the evolution of human cells in various aspects. Such cellular evolution will be referred to as silicon-directed cellular evolution. Interestingly, conversion of normal cells to cancer cells is a form of cellular evolution initiated by various factors of genetic and environmental. In this way, predicting the contribution of various forms of silicon to cellular evolution in humans may be predisposed to cancer. Therefore, logical and careful attention by all stakeholders including silicon industries, health organizations, and government agencies will be needed to formulate a sustainable and threat-free environment for humans.
No potential conflicts of interest were disclosed.