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Carcinogenesis. 1995 Jan;16(1):39-52.

Cancer risk of heterocyclic amines in cooked foods: an analysis and implications for research.

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  • 1Health and Ecological Assessment Division, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, University of California, Livermore 94550.


Heterocyclic amines (HAs) are formed as pyrolysis products during the cooking of meats/fish. These substances are potent mutagens in the Ames/Salmonella assay and are also carcinogens in laboratory animals. In order to assess the magnitude of the cancer risk posed by their presence in the US diet, we estimated the average intakes of HAs, based on analyses of the concentrations of HAs in cooked foods and data from a dietary survey of the US population and quantified the cancer potencies of the individual compounds using dose-response data from animal bioassays. Measured concentrations of HAs in cooked foods were taken from a major review of the open literature. Only those concentrations that were associated with normal cooking conditions were chosen for use in estimating dietary intakes. The average consumption of HA-bearing foods was determined by analyzing statistically the intakes of 3563 individuals who provided 3 day dietary records in a USDA sponsored random survey of the US population during 1989. Dietary intakes of the five principal HAs in descending order were 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo [4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) > 2-amino-9H-pyrido[2,3-b]indole (A alpha C) > 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx) > 2-amino-3,4,8-trimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (DiMeIQx) > 2-amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline (IQ). The carcinogenic potencies, in contrast, were almost the reverse order: IQ > DiMeIQx > MeIQx > PhIP > A alpha C. An upper-bound estimate of the incremental cancer risk is 1.1 x 10(-4), using cancer potencies based on a body surface area basis. Nearly half (46%) of the incremental risk was due to ingestion of PhIP. Consumption of meat and fish products contributed the most (approximately 80%) to total risk.

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