Diagnosis of polymorphisms in carcinogen-activating and inactivating enzymes and cancer susceptibility--a review

Gene. 1995 Jun 14;159(1):113-21. doi: 10.1016/0378-1119(94)00448-2.


Up to 90% of all cancers are possibly caused by environmental factors, such as tobacco smoke, diet and occupational exposures. The majority of chemical carcinogens require metabolic activation before they interact with cellular macromolecules and can cause cancer initiation. The xenobiotic-metabolising machinery contains two main types of enzymes: the phase-I cytochromes P-450 (CYP) mediating oxidative metabolism, and phase-II conjugating enzymes. Several phase-I and phase-II genes have recently been cloned and identified in humans. Many of them show polymorphism and have been suggested to contribute to individual cancer susceptibility as genetic modifiers of cancer risk. Altered phenotypes and genotypes in the CYP subfamilies CYP1A1, CYP2D6 and CYP2E1 have been associated with tobacco smoke-induced lung cancer and other cancers. Defective glutathione S-transferase (GST) and N-acetyltransferase (NAT) enzymes have been associated with an increased risk of developing lung and bladder cancer. There are also several studies in each category in which no associations have been found. The risk of developing lung cancer is dramatically (up to 40-fold) elevated in subpopulations having simultaneously high-risk genotypes in CYP1A1 and GSTM1. There are several difficulties in this area of research. First, many of the observed restriction-fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs) are due to mutations in introns or other silent areas of DNA, raising the possibility that any associations found between RFLPs and cancer occur only by chance. Second, biologically plausible mechanisms linking genotypes and cancer are lacking in most of the observed cases.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / genetics
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Biotransformation
  • Carcinogens / pharmacology*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Enzymes / genetics*
  • Glutathione Transferase / genetics
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length*
  • Xenobiotics / metabolism*


  • Carcinogens
  • Enzymes
  • Xenobiotics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System
  • Arylamine N-Acetyltransferase
  • Glutathione Transferase