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Evaluation of genotoxicity induced by exposure to antineoplastic drugs in lymphocytes of oncology nurses and pharmacists


Correspondence to: A. A. El-Ebiary, Department of Forensic Medicine and Clinical Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, Tanta University, Tanta, Egypt. E-mail:


The hazards of handling antineoplastic drugs have been raised and discussed in several studies. Introduction of new antineoplastics together with abuse of safety standards have contributed to the exposure risk for personnel who handle these substances. Interactions of antineoplastic drugs with biological structures vary according to the drug(s) and the individual's genetic susceptibility. This study was carried out to evaluate the genome damage induced by exposure to antineoplastic drugs in nurses (n = 20) and pharmacists (n = 18) working in the Oncology Department of Tanta Cancer Center. Thirty subjects matched in age, gender and smoking habit were selected as controls. Both chromosomal aberration analysis and micronucleus assay were used to evaluate genome damage in peripheral blood lymphocytes of the study subjects. The numbers of aberrant lymphocytes, as well as chromosomal aberration and micronuclei frequencies, were significantly increased in exposed personnel in comparison to matched controls. Compared with pharmacists, nurses showed notably higher level of chromosome damage. On the other hand, no significant difference in micronuclei frequency was observed between nurses and pharmacists. Correlation analyses pointed to the influence of age and duration of occupational exposure on the level of chromosome damage among exposed subjects. The results of this study confirmed that handling antineoplastic drugs without appropriate precautions imposed a genotoxic risk for exposed healthcare workers. These results address the need for regular biomonitoring of exposed personnel. In addition, they call attention to the need for proper implementation of intervention measures aiming to eliminate or significantly reduce worker exposure and prevent untoward biological effects. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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