An investigation of DNA damage and DNA repair in chemical carcinogenesis triggered by small-molecule xenobiotics and in cancer: Thirty years with the comet assay

Mutat Res Genet Toxicol Environ Mutagen. 2023 Jan:885:503564. doi: 10.1016/j.mrgentox.2022.503564. Epub 2022 Nov 23.


In the present review we addressed the determination of DNA damage induced by small-molecule carcinogens, considered their persistence in DNA and mutagenicity in in vitro and in vivo systems over a period of 30 years. The review spans from the investigation of the role of DNA damage in the cascade of chemical carcinogenesis. In the nineties, this concept evolved into the biomonitoring studies comprising multiple biomarkers that not only reflected DNA/chromosomal damage, but also the potential of the organism for biotransformation/elimination of various xenobiotics. Since first years of the new millennium, dynamic system of DNA repair and host susceptibility factors started to appear in studies and a considerable knowledge has been accumulated on carcinogens and their role in carcinogenesis. It was understood that the final biological links bridging the arising DNA damage and cancer onset remain to be elucidated. In further years the community of scientists learnt that cancer is a multifactorial disease evolving over several decades of individual´s life. Moreover, DNA damage and DNA repair are inseparable players also in treatment of malignant diseases, but affect substantially other processes, such as degeneration. Functional monitoring of DNA repair pathways and DNA damage response may cast some light on above aspects. Very little is currently known about the relationship between telomere homeostasis and DNA damage formation and repair. DNA damage/repair in genomic and mitochondrial DNA and crosstalk between these two entities emerge as a new interesting topic.

Keywords: Butadiene; DNA damage; DNA repair; Formaldehyde; Occupational medicine; Styrene.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogenesis / genetics
  • Carcinogens
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair
  • Humans
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Xenobiotics* / toxicity


  • Xenobiotics
  • DNA
  • Carcinogens