No acute and persistent DNA damage after an Ironman triathlon

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Aug;17(8):1913-9. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0293.


During acute and strenuous exercise, the enhanced formation of reactive oxygen species can induce damage to lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of an Ironman triathlon (3.8 km swim, 180 km cycle, 42 km run), as a prototype of ultra-endurance exercise, on DNA stability. As biomarkers of genomic instability, the number of micronuclei, nucleoplasmic bridges, and nuclear buds were measured within the cytokinesis-block micronucleus cytome assay in once-divided peripheral lymphocytes of 20 male triathletes. Blood samples were taken 2 days before, within 20 min after the race, and 5 and 19 days post-race. Overall, the number of micronuclei decreased (P < 0.05) after the race, remained at a low level until 5 days post-race, and declined further to 19 days post-race (P < 0.01). The frequency of nucleoplasmic bridges and nuclear buds did not change immediately after the triathlon. The number of nucleoplasmic bridge declined from 2 days pre-race to 19 days post-exercise (P < 0.05). The frequency of nuclear buds increased after the triathlon, peaking 5 days post-race (P < 0.01) and decreased to basic levels 19 days after the race (P < 0.01). The results suggest that an Ironman triathlon does not cause long-lasting DNA damage in well-trained athletes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bicycling*
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics
  • DNA Damage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective
  • Micronucleus Tests
  • Nuclear Envelope / genetics
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Running*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Swimming*