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Environ Sci Technol. 2017 Aug 1;51(15):8805-8814. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b02963. Epub 2017 Jul 11.

Cancer Risk Assessment of Airborne PAHs Based on in Vitro Mixture Potency Factors.

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Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet , Box 210, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University , 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.
Environment and Health Administration, 104 20 Stockholm, Sweden.


Complex mixtures of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are common environmental pollutants associated with adverse human health effects including cancer. However, the risk of exposure to mixtures is difficult to estimate, and risk assessment by whole mixture potency evaluations has been suggested. To facilitate this, reliable in vitro based testing systems are necessary. Here, we investigated if activation of DNA damage signaling in vitro could be an endpoint for developing whole mixture potency factors (MPFs) for airborne PAHs. Activation of DNA damage signaling was assessed by phosphorylation of Chk1 and H2AX using Western blotting. To validate the in vitro approach, potency factors were determined for seven individual PAHs which were in very good agreement with established potency factors based on cancer data in vivo. Applying the method using Stockholm air PAH samples indicated MPFs with orders of magnitude higher carcinogenic potency than predicted by established in vivo-based potency factors. Applying the MPFs in cancer risk assessment suggested that 45.4 (6% of all) cancer cases per year in Stockholm are due to airborne PAHs. Applying established models resulted in <1 cancer case per year, which is far from expected levels. We conclude that our in vitro based approach for establishing MPFs could be a novel method to assess whole mixture samples of airborne PAHs to improve health risk assessment.

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