The increased use of combined chemotherapy in the management of different kinds of neoplasms allows us to question the adverse biological effects of occupational exposure to antineoplastic drugs, and generate studies to visualize the potential toxicity of these substances on the affected staff. Over the last few years, several reports have provided evidence about the increased presence of abortions, malformations and risk of diseases like cancer in the hospital staff responsible for the preparation and administration of these drugs. For that reason it becomes necessary to implement new methodologies to assess the genotoxic potential of these substances. Because of its sensitivity to detect mainly single chain ruptures and al-alkali labile sites in individual cells, the alkaline comet essay is an inexpensive and rapid method to evaluate the effects of these substances on the DNA of occupationally exposed staff. The aim of this study was to evaluate DNA damage in a population of individuals employed in oncology units in the city of Bogotá, Colombia and compare it with a control group. Due to genetic variants possibly determining the response to DNA damage we studied the possible effect of polymorphisms of repair genes XRCC1 and XRCC3 on damage levels of genetic material. Some characteristics and confounding factors such as age, gender, alcohol consumption, smoking, and exercise routines were also taken into account. Peripheral blood samples were obtained from 40 people between exposed workers and people from the control group. The comet essay was performed using isolated lymphocytes, for which the samples were embedded in agarose and placed on a glass slide; then they were exposed to lysis with detergent solution and finally subjected to an electric current with an alkaline buffer. The genotyping for XRCC1 and XRCC3 genes was performed by PCR-RFLP. Compared with those of the control group, partial results of exposed personnel evaluations show a significant increase in DNA damage. No influence of age, gender or time exposure was observed on the results of the comet essay. The presence of the XRCC1 polymorphism was associated with the increase of genotoxic effects of these substances, generating a greater individual susceptibility to the undesirable effect of dangerous agents. The results suggest that occupational exposure to antineoplastic drugs without the appropriate security measures can be a high risk to human health.


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  • Received: 05 March 2012
  • Accepted: 05 March 2012
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