The comet assay or single cell gel electrophoresis, is the most common method used to measure strand breaks and a variety of other DNA lesions in human populations. To estimate the risk of overall mortality, mortality by cause, and cancer incidence associated to DNA damage, a cohort of 2,403 healthy individuals (25,978 person-years) screened in 16 laboratories using the comet assay between 1996 and 2016 was followed-up. Kaplan–Meier analysis indicated a worse overall survival in the medium and high tertile of DNA damage (p < 0.001). The effect of DNA damage on survival was modelled according to Cox proportional hazard regression model. The adjusted hazard ratio (HR) was 1.42 (1.06–1.90) for overall mortality, and 1.94 (1.04–3.59) for diseases of the circulatory system in subjects with the highest tertile of DNA damage. The findings of this study provide epidemiological evidence encouraging the implementation of the comet assay in preventive strategies for non-communicable diseases.
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