Micronuclei frequency in children exposed to environmental mutagens: A review

Monica Neri, Aleksandra Fucic, Lisbeth E. Knudsen, Cecilia Lando, Franco Merlo, Stefano Bonassi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cytogenetic monitoring has been traditionally used for the surveillance of populations exposed to genotoxic agents. In recent years sensitivity problems emerged in surveys of populations exposed to low levels of mutagens, and therefore alternative approaches have been explored. Biomonitoring studies in children are a promising field, since because of evident differences in the uptake, metabolism, distribution and excretion of mutagens this population seems to be more susceptible than adults. Further, the effect of major confounders such as cigarettes smoking, occupation, life-style, and dietary factors plays a minor role. Among cytogenetic assays, the micronucleus assay (MN) has several advantages and is increasingly used. A review was then carried out to synthesize the published data on the occurrence of MN in children and adolescents (age range 0-18 years), and to assess the impact of genotoxic exposure on MN frequency. Overall, 20 papers from international literature and 8 Russian papers were included. An effect of age was found within this age range, while the influence of gender on MN frequency was irrelevant. These results were confirmed by the re-analysis of data for 448 children selected from the HUMN database. An effect of chronic and infectious diseases on MN levels has been reported by various authors. Most studies describing the effect of exposure to genotoxic agents (ionizing radiation, chemicals, drugs, environmental tobacco smoke) found an increase of MN in exposed children. The limited number of published papers indicates that the conduct of properly designed studies on the effect of environmental pollutants in children may be difficult. This review confirmed the usefulness of MN assay in biomonitoring studies conducted in children, revealing that in many circumstances investigating children increases the sensitivity of the study, even with low dose exposures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-254
Number of pages12
JournalMutation Research - Reviews in Mutation Research
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


  • Children
  • Genotoxicity
  • Micronucleus test
  • Molecular epidemiology
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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