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Tumorigenic effects in Wistar rats orally administered benzo[a] pyrene for two years (gavage studies). Implications for human cancer risks associated with oral exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Synopsis

Humans are exposed via the environment and via food to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), mixtures considered carcinogenic by IARC. A quantitative cancer risk assessment for oral exposure is hampered by the absence of adequate data. The need for experimental data is substantiated by the fact that daily oral doses exceed inhaled doses for some potent carcinogenic PAH compounds, e.g. benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), by one order of magnitude, and the fact that epidemiological studies are not expected to provide useful data in this respect. For this reason we have performed a carcinogenicity study in rats; treatment (by gavage) for 2 years with the reference PAH B[a]P resulted in tumour-formation in a wide spectrum of organs and tissues, with liver and forestomach as major target-organs. Liver tumours in female rats were used for estimating a Virtually Safe Dose (VSD), i.e. the daily dose representing a one per million risk upon lifetime exposure, via methodology adopted by the Dutch Health Council (HCN, 1994-1996). Based on available data on occurrence and carcinogenic potency of PAH in Dutch diet it is suggested to apply a correction-factor of 10 for conversion to a VSD for B[a]P as indicator for all dietary PAH. With the resulting VSD of 0.5 ng B[a]P/kg bodyweight per day, cancer risks associated with PAH encountered in Dutch diet are estimated to be around acceptable risk levels. Parallel rat studies indicated that B[a]P-induced DNA adducts per se are not sufficient for tumour-development; induced local cell proliferation seems an additional critical factor. The possible implications of these findings are discussed.
 

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