Micronuclei and upper body cancers (head, neck, breast cancers) a systematic review and meta-analysis

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A systematic review and a meta-analysis were performed on 19 studies on head and neck cancer (HNC) and 21 studies on breast cancer (BC) to evaluate the application of micronucleus (MN) assay as a predictive and prognostic test for cancer risk. In these studies the MN test was applied in peripheral lymphocytes and buccal cells of patients and healthy subjects with family history of cancer. The meta-analysis on MN applied in buccal cells of HNC patients was performed on two subgroups of studies. A significant increase of MN frequency in patients compared to healthy controls was observed for the subgroup on oral cancer (243 cases/370 controls, meta-MR = 4.71 95 %CI:2.75–8.06) and HNC (204 patients/163 controls metaMR=2.28 95 %CI:2.02–2.58). A metaMR = 3.27 (95 %CI:1.41–7.59) was obtained for MN applied in peripheral lymphocytes on HNC (160 cases/160 controls). For BC, the analysis of MN in peripheral lymphocytes showed significantly higher values in patients (n = 761) than in controls (n = 788) (meta-MR1.90 95 % CI:1.44–2.49). No statistically significant increase of baseline MN was detected in studies on groups of healthy subjects with BC family history (n = 224) or with BRCA1/2 mutations (n = 101) with respect to the controls. After ex-vivo challenge with ionizing radiation, the meta-analysis revealed a slightly statistically significant increase in MN only in BC patients (n = 614) compared to controls (n = 622)(meta-MR = 1.11 95 %CI:1.02–1.21); no increase was observed in healthy subjects with BC family history carrying or not BRCA1/2 mutations. Significant difference between BC patients (n = 183) and controls (n = 165) was observed by the meta-analysis of data on MN in buccal cells (MR = 3.89 95 %CI:1.54–9.78). The MN assay in buccal cells has some perspective of clinical application in HNC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108358
JournalMutation Research - Reviews in Mutation Research
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Breast cancer
  • Clinical application
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Micronucleus assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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