Evidence of DNA damage in humans inhabiting a volcanically active environment: A useful tool for biomonitoring
The present study was designed to evaluate whether chronic exposure to a volcanically active environment might result in genotoxic and cytotoxic effects in human oral epithelial cells. A study group of 120 individuals inhabiting a volcanically active environment (exposed group; Furnas village) and a reference group of 122 individuals inhabiting a village without manifestations of volcanic activity (Santo António village) were examined in this study. Individuals from Furnas village inhabit a volcanically active environment marked by several degassing manifestations, including fumarolic fields, thermal and cold CO2 springs and soil diffuse degassing areas. For each individual, 1000 buccal epithelial cells were analyzed for the frequency of micronucleated cells (MNC) and the frequency of cells with other nuclear anomalies (ONA: pyknosis, karyolysis and karyorrhexis), by using the micronucleus assay. Information on life-style factors and an informed consent were obtained from each participant. The frequencies of MNC and of ONA per 1000 cells in the exposed group (4.3‰ and 23.5‰, respectively) were significantly higher than in the reference group (1.7‰ and 7.7‰, respectively). The risk of having a high frequency of MNC or ONA was 2.4 and 3.1-fold higher in exposed individuals compared to reference group. The analyzed confounding factors (age, gender, smoking status, alcohol consumption, and mouthwash use) did not show any significant association with the frequency of MNC or ONA. The higher risk of DNA damage in individuals inhabiting a volcanically active environment is for the first time clearly highlighted with this biomonitoring study. Given that MNC in oral epithelia are recognized as a predictive biomarker of cancer risk within a population of healthy subjects, these findings could contribute to explain the high incidence rates of lip, oral cavity and pharynx cancers previously referred for Furnas village inhabitants.