The enhanced bladder cancer susceptibility of NAT2 slow acetylators towards aromatic amines: a review considering ethnic differences

Toxicol Lett. 2002 Mar 10;128(1-3):229-41. doi: 10.1016/s0378-4274(01)00544-6.


Human bladder cancer may be caused by exposure to aromatic amines. The polymorphic enzyme N-acetyltransferase 2 (NAT2) is involved in the metabolism of these compounds. Two classical studies on chemical workers in Europe, exposed in the past to aromatic amines like benzidine, unambiguously showed that the slow acetylator status is a genetic risk factor for arylamine-induced bladder cancer. In the former benzidine industry in Huddington, Great Britain, 22 of 23 exposed cases with bladder cancer, but only 57% of 95 local controls without bladder cancer were of the slow acetylator phenotype. In Leverkusen, Germany, 82% of 92 benzidine-exposed chemical workers with bladder cancer were of the slow acetylator phenotype, whereas only 48% of 331 chemical workers who had worked at that plant were of the slow acetylator phenotype. This is in line with several smaller studies, which also show an over-representation of the slow acetylator status in formerly arylamine-exposed subjects with bladder cancer. Some of these studies included also subjects that were exposed to aromatic amines by having applied dyes, paints and varnishes. These European findings are in contrast to a large study on Chinese workers occupationally exposed to aromatic amines. In this study, only five of 38 bladder cancer cases occupationally exposed to arylamines were of the slow acetylator genotype. This is much lower than the ratio of slow acetylators to the general population in China. This points to different mechanisms of susceptibility for bladder cancer upon exposure to aromatic amines between European (Caucasian) and Chinese populations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amines / metabolism*
  • Amines / toxicity
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / genetics*
  • Asian People / genetics*
  • Benzidines / metabolism
  • Benzidines / toxicity
  • China / epidemiology
  • China / ethnology
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Germany / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • United Kingdom / ethnology
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / genetics
  • White People / genetics*


  • Amines
  • Benzidines
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase
  • NAT2 protein, human