Biomonitoring Exposure to Metal Compounds with Carcinogenic Properties

Several metals such as arsenic, beryllium, chromium and nickel are carcinogenic to man when they occur in certain well-defined physicochemical forms. The carcinogenic potential of these metals is linked to their mutagenic properties. The determination of the metal or possibly of its metabolites in biological media and the cytogenetic examination of somatic cells are two methods that can currently be used to monitor exposure of populations at risk. Due to the use of inappropriate methodology, the value of the positive cytogenetic results published so far appears questionable. By contrast, the concentrations of metals in blood, urine, or other biological materials can be determined with accurate and precise methods. Although it does not permit a direct assessment of the carcinogenic risk, this approach is currently the most suitable for monitoring exposed populations.

Alain Leonard1 and Alfred Bernard (Environmental Health Perspectives Supplements Vol. 101 (Suppl. 3): 127-133 (1993))