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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2012 Jul;21(7):1191-202. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-12-0214. Epub 2012 May 9.

Urinary naphthol metabolites and chromosomal aberrations in 5-year-old children.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.



Exposure to naphthalene, an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)-classified possible carcinogen and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), is widespread, though resulting health effects are poorly understood. Metabolites of naphthalene, 1- and 2-naphthol, are measurable in urine and are biomarkers of personal exposure. Chromosomal aberrations, including translocations, are established markers of cancer risk and a biodosimeter of clastogenic exposures. Although prenatal (maternal) PAH exposure predicts chromosomal aberrations in cord blood, few studies have examined chromosomal aberrations in school-age children and none has examined their association with metabolites of specific PAHs.


Using Whole Chromosome Paint Fluorescent in situ Hybridization, we documented chromosomal aberrations including translocations, in 113 five-year-old urban minority children and examined their association with concurrent concentrations of PAH metabolites measured in urine.


We report that in lymphocytes, the occurrence and frequency of chromosomal aberrations including translocations are associated with levels of urinary 1- and 2-naphthol. When doubling the levels of urinary naphthols, gender-adjusted OR for chromosomal aberrations are 1.63 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.21-2.19] and 1.44 (95% CI, 1.02-2.04) for 1- and 2-naphthol, respectively; and for translocations OR = 1.55 (95% CI, 1.11-2.17) and 1.92 (95% CI, 1.20-3.08) for 1- and 2-naphthol, respectively.


Our results show that markers of exposure to naphthalene in children are associated with translocations in a dose-related manner, and that naphthalene may be a clastogen.


Indoor exposure to elevated levels of naphthalene is prevalent in large regions of the world. This study is the first to present an association between a marker of naphthalene exposure and a precarcinogenic effect in humans.

©2012 AACR

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