The use of biomarkers in molecular epidemiology studies for identifying stages in the progression of development of the health effects of environmental agents has the potential for providing important information for critical regulatory, clinical and public health problems. Investigations of aflatoxins probably represent one of the most extensive data sets in the field and this work may serve as a template for future studies of other environmental agents. The aflatoxins are naturally occurring mycotoxins found on foods such as corn, peanuts, various other nuts and cottonseed and they have been demonstrated to be carcinogenic in many experimental models. As a result of nearly 30 years of study, experimental data and epidemiological studies in human populations, aflatoxin B1 was classified as carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The long-term goal of the research described herein is the application of biomarkers to the development of preventative interventions for use in human populations at high-risk for cancer. Several of the aflatoxin-specific biomarkers have been validated in epidemiological studies and are now being used as intermediate biomarkers in prevention studies. The development of these aflatoxin biomarkers has been based upon the knowledge of the biochemistry and toxicology of aflatoxins gleaned from both experimental and human studies. These biomarkers have subsequently been utilized in experimental models to provide data on the modulation of these markers under different situations of disease risk. This systematic approach provides encouragement for preventive interventions and should serve as a template for the development, validation and application of other chemical-specific biomarkers to cancer or other chronic diseases.
- Liver cancer
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