Assessment of DNA sensitivity in peripheral blood leukocytes after occupational exposure to microwave radiation: the alkaline comet assay and chromatid breakage assay

Cell Biol Toxicol. 2009 Feb;25(1):33-43. doi: 10.1007/s10565-008-9060-3. Epub 2008 Jan 23.


DNA sensitivity in peripheral blood leukocytes of radar-facility workers daily exposed to microwave radiation and an unexposed control subjects was investigated. The study was carried out on clinically healthy male workers employed on radar equipment and antenna system service within a microwave field of 10 muW/cm(2)-20 mW/cm(2) with frequency range of 1,250-1,350 MHz. The control group consisted of subjects of similar age. The evaluation of DNA damage and sensitivity was performed using alkaline comet assay and chromatid breakage assay (bleomycin-sensitivity assay). The levels of DNA damage in exposed subjects determined by alkaline comet assay were increased compared to control group and showed inter-individual variations. After short exposure of cultured lymphocytes to bleomycin cells of subjects occupationally exposed to microwave (MW) radiation responded with high numbers of chromatid breaks. Almost three times higher number of bleomycin-induced chromatid breaks in cultured peripheral blood lymphocytes were determined in comparison with control group. The difference in break per cell (b/c) values recorded between smokers and non-smokers was statistically significant in the exposed group. Regression analyses showed significant positive correlation between the results obtained with two different methods. Considering the correlation coefficients, the number of metaphase with breaks was a better predictor of the comet assay parameters compared to b/c ratio. The best correlation was found between tail moment and number of chromatid with breaks. Our results indicate that MW radiation represents a potential DNA-damaging hazard using the alkaline comet assay and chromatid breakage assay as sensitive biomarkers of individual cancer susceptibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chromatids / metabolism*
  • Chromatids / radiation effects
  • Chromosome Breakage / radiation effects*
  • Comet Assay*
  • DNA Damage*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Leukocytes / radiation effects
  • Male
  • Microwaves*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*