An assessment on ethanol-blended gasoline/diesel fuels on cancer risk and mortality

Steffen Mueller, Gail Dennison, Shujun Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Although cancer is traditionally considered a genetic disease, the epigenetic abnormal-ities, including DNA hypermethylation, histone deacetylation, and/or microRNA dysregulation, have been demonstrated as a hallmark of cancer. Compared with gene mutations, aberrant epigenetic changes occur more frequently, and cellular epigenome is more susceptible to change by environmental factors. Excess cancer risks are positively associated with exposure to occupational and environmental chemical carcinogens, including those from gasoline combustion exhausted in vehicles. Of note, previous studies proposed particulate matter index (PMI) as a measure for gasoline sooting tendency, and showed that, compared with the other molecules in gasoline, 1,2,4– Trimethylbenzene, 2–methylnaphthalene and toluene significantly contribute to PMI of the gasoline blends. Mechanistically, both epigenome and genome are important in carcinogenicity, and the genotoxicity of chemical agents has been thoroughly studied. However, less effort has been put into studying the epigenotoxicity. Moreover, as the blending of ethanol into gasoline substitutes for carcinogens, like benzene, toluene, xylene, butadiene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, etc., a reduction of secondary aromatics has been achieved in the atmosphere. This may lead to diminished cancer initiation and progression through altered cellular epigenetic landscape. The present review summarizes the most important findings in the literature on the association between exposures to carcinogens from gasoline combustion, cancer epigenetics and the potential epigenetic impacts of biofuels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6930
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This work was supported in part by the Renewable Fuels Association fund and The Hormel Foundation (S.L.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • BTEX
  • BTX
  • Benzene
  • Biofuels
  • COVID-19
  • Carcinogens
  • DNA methylation
  • DNA methyltransferases
  • DNMT
  • Epigenotoxicity
  • Ethanol
  • Gasoline combustion
  • Genotoxicity
  • HAT
  • HDAC
  • Histone acetyltransferases
  • Histone deacetylases
  • Histone modification
  • MicroRNAs
  • PAHs
  • PM emission
  • TET
  • Ten–eleven translocation methylcytosine dioxygenases


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