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Mutat Res. 1998 Sep 20;405(2):135-43.

DNA adducts in humans after exposure to methylating agents.

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Institute of Biological Research and Biotechnology, National Hellenic Research Foundation, 48 Vassileos Constantinou Avenue, Athens 11635, Greece.


Human exposure to methylating agents appears to be widespread, as indicated by the frequent occurrence of methylated DNA adducts in human DNA. The high incidence of methylated DNA adducts even in humans thought not to have suffered extensive exposure to environmental methylating agents implies that chemicals of endogenous origin, probably N-nitroso compounds such as the strongly carcinogenic N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), may be primarily responsible for their formation and raises the question of the carcinogenic risks associated with such exposure. In addition to accumulation of DNA damage, other factors (such as induced cell proliferation) appear to be important in determining the probability of induction of mutation or cancer by NDMA, implying that high to low dose risk extrapolations should not be based on the assumption of dose- or even adduct-linearity. Comparative studies of the accumulation and repair of methylated adducts in humans and animals treated with methylating cytostatic drugs do not reveal significant species differences. Based on this and the dosimetry of adduct accumulation in rats chronically exposed to very low doses of NDMA, it is suggested that the exposure needed to account for the levels of adducts found in human DNA may be of the order of hundreds of micrograms NDMA (or equivalent) per day, a level of exposure which may well represent a significant carcinogenic hazard for man.

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