Bulky DNA adducts are markers of exposure to genotoxic aromatic compounds, which reflect an individual’s ability to metabolically activate carcinogens and to repair DNA damage. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) 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.
We pooled eleven studies (3,600 subjects) in which bulky DNA adducts were measured in human white blood cells with similar 32P-postlabelling techniques and for which a similar set of variables was available, including individual data on age, gender, ethnicity, batch, smoking habits, BMI, season of blood collection and a limited set of gene variants.
Lowest DNA adduct levels were observed in the spring (median 0.50 adducts per 108 nucleotides), followed by summer (0.64), autumn (0.70) and winter (0.85) (p=0.006). 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, Denmark) (mean 0.60, median 0.40) than in Southern Europe (Italy, Spain, France, Greece) (mean 0.79, median 0.60).
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 inter-area differences (North vs South Europe), but most inter-area and inter-individual variation in adduct levels still remain unexplained.
Our study describes the largest pooled analysis of bulky DNA adducts so far, showing that inter-individual variation is still largely unexplained, though seasonality appears to play a role.