Follow-up genotoxicological monitoring of nurses handling antineoplastic drugs

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Most of the antineoplastic drugs used in the treatment of tumors are carcinogenic to humans. Hospital nurses are often subject to possible occupational carcinogen exposure. Exposure may occur during handling and administration of infusion solutions containing cytostatics. A genotoxicological monitoring system to detect genotoxic changes was developed in our laboratory, helping to improve working conditions and subserving primary prevention. Multiple-endpoint follow-up genotoxicological monitoring was performed in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) among 4 groups of 95 nurses (152 investigations) occupationally exposed to cytostatics. The results were compared to those of historical and industrial controls. The genotoxicological endpoints were the determination of the frequency of sister chromatid exchanges (SCEs) and the cells with high-frequency SCEs (HFC), the frequency of structural and numerical chromosome aberrations, and the measurement of ultraviolet-light-induced unscheduled DNA-repair synthesis (UDS). In Hospital 1, where nurses worked without a safety cabinet, the percentage of cells with chromosome aberrations (AC) was significantly higher than that of the controls. In Hospital 2, where nurses used inadequate safety cabinets (with horizontal airflow), significantly elevated levels of AC, SCE, HFC, and UDS were detected. During follow-up, in Hospital 2 at the time of the second investigation AC was still significantly higher, although safety conditions had been improved. The results indicate the presence of genotoxic damage in hospital nurses working with no or inadequate safety equipment. In Hospitals 3 and 4 where nurses using biological safety cabinets, the results were lower than those in the previous two groups. In Hospital 3 in the first year of the study AC was as at the level of industrial controls. During follow-up in the course of the repeated investigations a fluctuation in AC above the control level and an increase in HFC in yr 4 and 6 of the study were observed. In this group, the fluctuation in AC and HFC during the study points to the possibility of genotoxic exposure with cytostatics despite of the use of suitable safety cabinets, drawing attention to other possible routes of exposure. In Hospital 4, both AC and HFC were elevated. These data corroborate the need to maintain safety measures to avoid exposure, and the necessity of intervention in the case of exposure when using and handling hazardous carcinogenic agents. The results also indicate a certain expression time for genotoxic changes, which can lead to late somatic mutations as well as to a possible higher risk of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-318
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part A
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Mar 9 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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