In contrast to some extensively examined food mutagens, for example, aflatoxins, N-nitrosamines and heterocyclic amines, some other food contaminants, in particular polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and other aromatic compounds, have received less attention. Therefore, exploring the relationships between dietary habits and the levels of biomarkers related to exposure to aromatic compounds is highly relevant. We have investigated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort the association between dietary items (food groups and nutrients) and aromatic DNA adducts and 4-aminobiphenyl-Hb adducts. Both types of adducts are biomarkers of carcinogen exposure and possibly of cancer risk, and were measured, respectively, in leucocytes and erythrocytes of 1086 (DNA adducts) and 190 (Hb adducts) non-smokers. An inverse, statistically significant, association has been found between DNA adduct levels and dietary fibre intake (P=0.02), vitamin E (P=0.04) and alcohol (P=0.03) but not with other nutrients or food groups. Also, an inverse association between fibre and fruit intake, and BMI and 4-aminobiphenyl-Hb adducts (P=0.03, 0.04, and 0.03 respectively) was observed. After multivariate regression analysis these inverse correlations remained statistically significant, except for the correlation adducts v. fruit intake. The present study suggests that fibre intake in the usual range can modify the level of DNA or Hb aromatic adducts, but such role seems to be quantitatively modest. Fibres could reduce the formation of DNA adducts in different manners, by diluting potential food mutagens and carcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract, by speeding their transit through the colon and by binding carcinogenic substances.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Nutrition

Publication Date





489 - 495