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Mutat Res. 1990 Nov;239(3):163-79.

International Commission for Protection Against Environmental Mutagens and Carcinogens. ICPEMC Working Paper 7/1/2. Shared risk factors for cancer and atherosclerosis--a review of the epidemiological evidence.

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Institute of Community Health, University of Odense, Denmark.


This paper reviews the epidemiological literature of relevance for the hypothesis that somatic mutation is involved in the formation of the atherosclerotic plaque. Assuming that somatic mutations are involved in atherogenesis, one would expect at least some of the risk factors for cancer and for atherosclerosis to be identical. Therefore, the review covers the correlated occurrence of cancer and atherosclerotic disease. Special interest is given to populations at high risk of cancer, including subpopulations with certain genetic diseases, and populations exposed to certain carcinogenic environmental agents including ionizing radiation, vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), arsenic, tobacco, and various industrial combustion effluents containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Exposure to combustion effluents from burning of tobacco or fuel is associated with an increased risk of cancer and atherosclerotic disease. Combustion effluents constitute a complex mixture of potentially hazardous agents, however, and the observed correlation of cancer and atherosclerosis among exposed persons cannot be unambiguously interpreted as evidence of a common etiology of the two groups of diseases. For ionizing radiation, arsenic, and VCM there is suggestive evidence that these agents possess an atherogenic effect beside their well-known carcinogenic properties. Both arsenic and VCM seem to have a specific affinity to the vascular bed causing various lesions including angiosarcomas and atherosclerotic plaques. Regarding ionizing radiation, the atherogenic effects seem to be localized to heavily irradiated fields. Beside the carcinogenic and atherogenic effects, exposure to arsenic, VCM, and ionizing radiation brings about an increase in the incidence of mutations and chromosomal aberrations. A theory involving somatic mutation in the pathogenesis of the atherosclerotic plaque could be consistent with the observed biological effects of ionizing radiation, arsenic, and VCM. The scant data from families with certain inherited diseases may also be consistent with an involvement of the genome in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. In conclusion, there is strong epidemiological evidence that several factors associated with an increased risk of cancer are also associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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