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Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. 2013 Nov;9(11):1465-80. doi: 10.1517/17425255.2013.823157. Epub 2013 Jul 31.

Bioaccessibility of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: relevance to toxicity and carcinogenesis.

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Meharry Medical College, Department of Biochemistry & Cancer Biology , 1005 D.B. Todd Blvd, Nashville, TN, 37208 , USA +1 615 327 6486 ; +1 615 327 6442 ;



Bioaccessibility is a growing area of research in the field of risk assessment. As polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are ubiquitous environmental pollutants, they are the toxicants of focus to establish cancer risks in humans. Orally ingested PAHs also cause toxicity and even affect the pharmacokinetic behavior of some therapeutic agents. Toward this end, bioaccessibility is being used as a tool to assess the risk of PAHs via dietary exposures.


This review covers some in vitro bioaccessibility models for PAHs that have been used for the past one-and-a-half decade. This review also considers the factors that influence bioaccessibility and debates the merits and limitations of using a bioaccessibility concept for estimating risk from ingestion of PAH-contaminated soil and food. Finally, the authors discuss the implications of bioaccessibility for PAH-induced toxicity and cancers in the context of risk assessment.


So far, much of the focus on PAH bioaccessibility is centered on soil as a preferential matrix. However, ingestion of PAHs through diet far exceeds the amount accidentally ingested through soil. Therefore, bioaccessibility could be exploited as a tool to assess the relative risk of various dietary ingredients tainted with PAHs. While bioaccessibility is a promising approach for assessing PAH risk arising from various types of contaminated soils, none of the models proposed appears to be valid. Bioaccessibility values, derived from in vitro studies, still require validation from in vivo studies.

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