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Environ Mol Mutagen. 2010 Mar;51(2):89-111. doi: 10.1002/em.20525.

An evaluation of the mode of action framework for mutagenic carcinogens case study II: chromium (VI).

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Health Effects Division, Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP), US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC 20460, USA.


In response to the 2005 revised U.S Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Cancer Guidelines, a strategy is being developed to include all mutagenicity and other genotoxicity data with additional information to determine whether the initiating step in carcinogenesis is through a mutagenic mode of action (MOA). This information is necessary to decide if age-dependent adjustment factors (ADAFs) should be applied to the risk assessment. Chromium (VI) [Cr (VI)], a carcinogen in animals and humans via inhalation, was reassessed by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in 2-year drinking water studies in rodents. From these data, NTP concluded that the results with Cr (VI) showed clear evidence of carcinogenicity in male and female mice and rats. Cr (VI) is also mutagenic, in numerous in vitro assays, in animals (mice and rats) and in humans. Accordingly, Cr (VI) was processed through the MOA framework; postulated key steps in tumor formation were interaction of DNA with Cr (VI) and reduction to Cr (III), mutagenesis, cell proliferation, and tumor formation. Within the timeframe and tumorigenic dose range for early events, genetic changes in mice (single/double-stranded DNA breaks) commence within 24 hr. Mechanistic evidence was also found for oxidative damage and DNA adduct formation contributing to the tumor response. The weight of evidence supports the plausibility that Cr (VI) may act through a mutagenic MOA. Therefore, the Cancer Guidelines recommend a linear extrapolation for the oral risk assessment. Cr (VI) also induces germ cell mutagenicity and causes DNA deletions in developing embryos; thus, it is recommended that the ADAFs be applied.

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