Tumor markers in serum, polyamines and modified nucleosides in urine, and cytogenetic aberrations in lymphocytes of workers exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Am J Ind Med. 1995 Apr;27(4):523-43. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700270406.


Some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) such as benzo(a)pyrene and benzo(a)anthracene are well-established genotoxic agents. Long-term exposure to PAHs may lead to proliferative cell disorders in humans, predominantly in the skin, lung, and bladder. The concentration of several tumor markers in serum, of polyamines and modified nucleosides in urine, and of cytogenetic endpoints in peripheral lymphocytes (sister-chromatid exchanges, high frequency cells [HFC], and micronuclei) were measured in 149 male workers exposed to PAHs in two coke oven and one graphite electrode plants, and in 137 controls. We have assessed whether these biomarkers were related to several parameters reflecting exposure to PAHs, i.e., the sum of the airborne concentration of 13 PAHs, 1-hydroxypyrene (1-OHP) concentration in postshift urine, benzo(a)pyrene-diolepoxide adducts to hemoglobin (BPDE-Hb adducts), and duration of exposure, taking also into account several possible confounding factors. HFC was the biomarker most consistently associated with the intensity of current exposure to PAHs. Smoking exerts an independent effect on the same parameter. On the basis of the logistic regression between the prevalence of abnormal HFC values and PAHs in air and 1-OHP in postshift urine found in nonsmokers, it is suggested that the latter should be kept below 6.4 micrograms/m3 and 2.7 micrograms/g creatinine, respectively. No relationship was found between the cytogenetic effects and BPDE-Hb adducts although both parameters are statistically correlated with the airborne PAH level. Some tumor markers in serum (carcinoembryonic antigen, tissue polypeptide antigen, sialic acid) and the urinary concentration of some polyamines were correlated with either PAHs in air or 1-OHP in urine. The associations, however, were very weak which suggests that these biomarkers have limited practical value for the health surveillance of groups of workers exposed to genotoxic PAHs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • Male
  • Metallurgy
  • Middle Aged
  • Nucleosides / urine*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Polyamines / urine*
  • Polycyclic Compounds*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sister Chromatid Exchange
  • Smoking


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Nucleosides
  • Polyamines
  • Polycyclic Compounds