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Environ Health Perspect. 2000 Mar; 108(Suppl 1): 57–70.
PMCID: PMC1637778
Research Article

Molecular epidemiology studies on occupational and environmental exposure to mutagens and carcinogens, 1997-1999.


Molecular epidemiology is a new and evolving area of research, combining laboratory measurement of internal dose, biologically effective dose, biologic effects, and influence of individual susceptibility with epidemiologic methodologies. Biomarkers evaluated were selected according to basic scheme: biomarkers of exposure--metabolites in urine, DNA adducts, protein adducts, and Comet assay parameters; biomarkers of effect--chromosomal aberrations, sister chromatid exchanges, micronuclei, mutations in the hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase gene, and the activation of oncogenes coding for p53 or p21 proteins as measured on protein levels; biomarkers of susceptibility--genetic polymorphisms of genes CYP1A1, GSTM1, GSTT1, NAT2. DNA adducts measured by 32P-postlabeling are the biomarker of choice for the evaluation of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Protein adducts are useful as a biomarker for exposure to tobacco smoke (4-aminobiphenyl) or to smaller molecules such as acrylonitrile or 1,3-butadiene. Of the biomarkers of effect, the most common are cytogenetic end points. Epidemiologic studies support the use of chromosomal breakage as a relevant biomarker of cancer risk. The use of the Comet assay and methods analyzing oxidative DNA damage needs reliable validation for human biomonitoring. Until now there have not been sufficient data to interpret the relationship between genotypes, biomarkers of exposure, and biomarkers of effect for assessing the risk of human exposure to mutagens and carcinogens.

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