Quantification of the carcinogenic effect of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in used engine oil by topical application onto the skin of mice

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 1982;50(1):95-100. doi: 10.1007/BF00432496.


The purpose of this investigation was to identify the substances mainly responsible for the carcinogenic effect of used engine oil from gasoline engines using topical application as a carcinogen-specific bioassay. This was performed by comparison of the tumorigenic effect of single fractions with that of an unseparated sample of the lubricating oil. The probit analysis of the results shows: 1) The used engine oil, from gasoline-driven automobiles, investigated provoked local tumors after long-term application to the dorsal skin of mice. The incidence of carcinoma depended on the dose of the oil. 2) The fraction of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) containing more than three rings accounts for about 70% of the total carcinogenicity in the case of crankcase oil. This fraction constitutes only up to 1.14% by weight of the total oil sample. 3) The content of benzo(a)pyrene (216.8 mg/kg) accounts for 18% of the total carcinogenicity of the used oil. 4) Regarding the reduced carcinogenicity of the oil sample, which was reconstituted from all fractions, it seems possible that some of the carcinogenic substances were lost due to volatility, with evaporation of the solvents from the oil-fractionation processes. 5) Regarding the small effect of the PAH-free fraction, as well as the equal carcinogenic effects of the PAH-fraction (containing more than three rings) and the reconstituted oil sample, no hints for a co-carcinogenic activity were obtained.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Oils / analysis*
  • Polycyclic Compounds / toxicity*
  • Skin Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Oils
  • Polycyclic Compounds