Background: Bulky DNA adducts are markers of exposure to genotoxic aromatic compounds, which reflect the ability of an individual to metabolically activate carcinogens and to repair DNA damage. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) represent a major class of carcinogens that are capable of forming such adducts. Factors that have been reported to be related to DNA adduct levels include smoking, diet, body mass index (BMI), genetic polymorphisms, the season of collection of biologic material, and air pollutants.
Methods: We pooled 11 studies (3,600 subjects) in which bulky DNA adducts were measured in human white blood cells with similar 32P-postlabeling techniques and for which a similar set of variables was available, including individual data on age, gender, ethnicity, batch, smoking habits, BMI, and season of blood collection, and a limited set of gene variants.
Results: Lowest DNA adduct levels (P = 0.006) were observed in the spring (median = 0.50 adducts per 108 nucleotides), followed by summer (0.64), autumn (0.70), and winter (0.85). The same pattern emerged in multivariate analysis but only among never smokers (P = 0.02). Adduct levels were significantly lower (P = 0.001) in northern Europe (the Netherlands and Denmark; mean = 0.60, median = 0.40) than in southern Europe (Italy, Spain, France, and Greece; mean = 0.79, median = 0.60).
Conclusions: In this large pooled analysis, we have found only weak associations between bulky DNA adducts and exposure variables. Seasonality (with higher adducts levels in winter) and air pollution may partly explain some of the interarea differences (north vs. south Europe), but most inter-area and interindividual variations in adduct levels still remain unexplained.
Impact: Our study describes the largest pooled analysis of bulky DNA adducts so far, showing that interindividual variation is still largely unexplained, though seasonality seems to play a role.