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Biomarkers of Exposure to Carcinogens

Genetic Toxicology, Oncogenesis, Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology

  1. Paul T.J. Scheepers MSc, PhD, ERT Associate Professor

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470744307.gat176

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

How to Cite

Scheepers, P. T. 2009. Biomarkers of Exposure to Carcinogens. General, Applied and Systems Toxicology. .

Author Information

  1. Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Research Laboratory of Molecular Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and HTA, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


In human exposure assessment a biomarker is a parent substance, metabolite or addition product (adduct) that can be measured in blood, urine, exhaled air or in other biological tissues. The biomarker provides information on the internal exposure to a chemical substance. Biomarkers can be used to evaluate exposure to carcinogenic substances in the workplace or in the general environment. If the parent compound is used as a biomarker, information on uptake from different sources and via different routes can be obtained. Use of a metabolite or adduct to DNA or proteins also provides information on bioavailability and metabolic activation. The half-life of biomarkers determines the moment of sample collection relative to time of exposure. Some biomarkers are mechanism-based and provide useful information on the formation of genotoxic intermediates. Most biomarkers reflect systemic bioavailability rather than a target dose, which sometimes limits the interpretation in terms of assessment of cancer risk. The method of sample collection, pretreatment, transportation, storage and a reproducible and sensitive method of analysis should be selected with care. Background values and biological limit values provide a framework for interpretation. The study protocol should comply with international standards in ethics of biomedical studies involving human subjects.


  • human biological monitoring;
  • blood;
  • urine;
  • end-exhaled air;
  • adduct;
  • urinary metabolite;
  • biological limit value