Background: Leukemia incidence has increased in recent decades among European children, suggesting that early-life environmental exposures play an important role in disease development.
Objectives: We investigated the hypothesis that childhood susceptibility may increase as a result of in utero exposure to carcinogens and hormonally acting factors. Using cord blood samples from the NewGeneris cohort, we examined associations between a range of biomarkers of carcinogen exposure and hormonally acting factors with micronuclei (MN) frequency as a proxy measure of cancer risk. Associations with gene expression and genotype were also explored.
Methods: DNA and protein adducts, gene expression profiles, circulating hormonally acting factors, and GWAS (genome-wide association study) data were investigated in relation to genomic damage measured by MN frequency in lymphocytes from 623 newborns enrolled between 2006 and 2010 across Europe.
Results: Malondialdehyde DNA adducts (M1dG) were associated with increased MN frequency in binucleated lymphocytes (MNBN), and exposure to androgenic, estrogenic, and dioxin-like compounds was associated with MN frequency in mononucleated lymphocytes (MNMONO), although no monotonic exposure-outcome relationship was observed. Lower frequencies of MNBN were associated with a 1-unit increase expression of PDCD11, LATS2, TRIM13, CD28, SMC1A, IL7R, and NIPBL genes. Gene expression was significantly higher in association with the highest versus lowest category of bulky and M1dG-DNA adducts for five and six genes, respectively. Gene expression levels were significantly lower for 11 genes in association with the highest versus lowest category of plasma AR CALUX® (chemically activated luciferase expression for androgens) (8 genes), ERα CALUX® (for estrogens) (2 genes), and DR CALUX® (for dioxins). Several SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms) on chromosome 11 near FOLH1 significantly modified associations between androgen activity and MNBN frequency. Polymorphisms in EPHX1/2 and CYP2E1 were associated with MNBN.
Conclusion: We measured in utero exposure to selected environmental carcinogens and circulating hormonally acting factors and detected associations with MN frequency in newborns circulating T lymphocytes. The results highlight mechanisms that may contribute to carcinogen-induced leukemia and require further research.