Epigenetic alterations induced by genotoxic occupational and environmental human chemical carcinogens: A systematic literature review. Academic Article uri icon


  • Accumulating evidence suggests that epigenetic alterations play an important role in chemically-induced carcinogenesis. Although the epigenome and genome may be equally important in carcinogenicity, the genotoxicity of chemical agents and exposure-related transcriptomic responses have been more thoroughly studied and characterized. To better understand the evidence for epigenetic alterations of human carcinogens, and the potential association with genotoxic endpoints, we conducted a systematic review of published studies of genotoxic carcinogens that reported epigenetic endpoints. Specifically, we searched for publications reporting epigenetic effects for the 28 agents and occupations included in Monograph Volume 100F of the International Agency for the Research on Cancer (IARC) that were classified as "carcinogenic to humans" (Group 1) with strong evidence of genotoxic mechanisms of carcinogenesis. We identified a total of 158 studies that evaluated epigenetic alterations for 12 of these 28 carcinogenic agents and occupations (1,3-butadiene, 4-aminobiphenyl, aflatoxins, benzene, benzidine, benzo[a]pyrene, coke production, formaldehyde, occupational exposure as a painter, sulfur mustard, and vinyl chloride). Aberrant DNA methylation was most commonly studied, followed by altered expression of non-coding RNAs and histone changes (totaling 85, 59 and 25 studies, respectively). For 3 carcinogens (aflatoxins, benzene and benzo[a]pyrene), 10 or more studies reported epigenetic effects. However, epigenetic studies were sparse for the remaining 9 carcinogens; for 4 agents, only 1 or 2 published reports were identified. While further research is needed to better identify carcinogenesis-associated epigenetic perturbations for many potential carcinogens, published reports on specific epigenetic endpoints can be systematically identified and increasingly incorporated in cancer hazard assessments.

published proceedings

  • Mutat Res Rev Mutat Res

altmetric score

  • 4.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Chappell, G., Pogribny, I. P., Guyton, K. Z., & Rusyn, I.

citation count

  • 125

complete list of authors

  • Chappell, Grace||Pogribny, Igor P||Guyton, Kathryn Z||Rusyn, Ivan

publication date

  • March 2016