Human population studies with cytogenetic biomarkers: review of the literature and future prospectives

Environ Mol Mutagen. Mar-Apr 2005;45(2-3):258-70. doi: 10.1002/em.20115.


Cytogenetic biomarkers are by far the most frequently used endpoints in human population studies. Their sensitivity for measuring exposure to genotoxic agents and their role as early predictors of cancer risk have contributed to this success. In this article, we present an overview of the last 25 years of population studies with cytogenetic biomarkers, describing the evolution of this research and addressing the most promising innovations for the future. The evaluation has been restricted to the most popular assays, i.e., chromosomal aberrations (CAs) and micronucleus (MN), which are considered to be causally related to early stages of chronic diseases, especially cancer, and may therefore play a major role in prevention. An extensive literature search covering the period 1 January 1980 to 31 December 2003 was performed using the Medline/PubMed database. A total of 833 population studies using CAs and 434 using matched MN inclusion criteria were included in the analysis. We report the distribution of selected papers by year of publication, country, language, agents investigated, and methods employed. The state of the art and future prospects regarding cytogenetic techniques and epidemiologic and statistical methods are discussed. The role of susceptibility and its potential impact on genotoxic damage are discussed with special attention to the effect of major genetic polymorphisms on the baseline frequency of CAs and micronuclei.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Cytogenetic Analysis / methods*
  • Genetic Markers / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Micronucleus Tests / methods*
  • Molecular Epidemiology / methods*
  • Statistics as Topic / methods


  • Genetic Markers