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Mutat Res. 1995 Mar;342(1-2):17-23.

DNA damage in nurses handling antineoplastic agents.

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  • 1Institute of Toxicology, University of Mainz, Germany.


In 91 nurses from several divisions of four hospitals in Germany the genotoxic effect caused by the occupational exposure presumably due to mixing of antineoplastic agents was investigated. The amount of DNA single strand breaks and alkali labile sites in the peripheral mononuclear blood cells of the nurses was measured using the alkaline elution method. In ten nurses handling antineoplastic agents not using recommended safety precautions such as safety hoods, gloves or surgical masks a 50% higher level of DNA strand breaks and alkali-labile sites (p < 0.005; U-test) was detected compared to 54 controls. After applying recommended safety precautions a statistically significant decrease (p < 0.01) in the level of DNA strand breaks to the level of controls was observed. In other nurses handling antineoplastic agents by using adequate safety equipment no significantly different amount of DNA strand breaks compared to that of controls was detected. No significant correlation between the level of DNA strand breaks and the weekly contact frequency, the life-time exposure to antineoplastic agents, or the time elapsed since the last handling of the drugs was found in this study.

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