Increased genotoxic susceptibility of breast epithelial cells to ethylene oxide

Balázs Ádám, Helga Bárdos, Róza Ádány

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11 Citations (Scopus)


This study was carried out with the aim of elucidating the organ-specific effects of ethylene oxide in comparison with the sensitivity of cells from different tissues. An increased incidence of leukemia and lymphoma has been observed in workers exposed to ethylene oxide. However, contradictory findings exist regarding its ability to induce other tumor types, such as breast cancer. We characterized the genotoxicity of ethylene oxide by means of the alkaline version of comet assay in in vitro systems, in order to investigate the hypothesized role of this substance in the development of breast cancer. For this study, we used primary and secondary cultures of lymphoblasts (well-known target cells of the genotoxicity of ethylene oxide), breast epithelial cells (hypothesized target), peripheral blood lymphocytes (cells commonly used in biomonitoring), and of keratinocytes and cervical epithelial cells. DNA damage was measured and expressed as tail DNA, tail length, and tail moment. In the concentration range 0-100 μM, ethylene oxide induced a dose-dependent increase of DNA damage in the investigated cell types without notable cytotoxicity. A statistically significant increase of DNA damage could be observed after treatment with 20 μM ethylene oxide in lymphoblasts (51% increase of tail moment over the background), breast epithelial cells (26% increase) and peripheral lymphocytes (71% increase). In keratinocytes (5% increase) and cervical epithelial cells (5% increase) significant DNA damage could not be detected at this dose, but at higher concentrations (50-100 μM), such an increase was observed. These results are indicative of an increased sensitivity of breast epithelial cells towards genotoxic insults of ethylene oxide. Our observations provide additional data to evaluate the hypothesis that exposure to ethylene oxide may play a role in breast cancer, and the findings may contribute to the development of screening tests for monitoring an early response to genotoxic insults in occupational settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-126
Number of pages7
JournalMutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Comet assay
  • DNA damage
  • Ethylene oxide
  • Genotoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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