Longitudinal study of urinary phenanthrene metabolite ratios: Effect of smoking on the diol epoxide pathway

Stephen S. Hecht, Menglan Chen, Andrea Yoder, Joni A Jensen, Dorothy Hatsukami, Chap Le, Steven G. Carmella

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44 Scopus citations


We have proposed that urinary phenanthrene metabolites could be used in a carcinogen metabolite phenotyping approach to identify individuals who may be susceptible to cancer induction by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). In support of this proposal, we have developed methods for quantitation of r-1,t-2,3,c-4-tetrahydroxy-1,2,3,4-tetrahydrophenanthrene (PheT) and phenanthrols (HOPhe) in human urine. PheT is the end product of the diol epoxide metabolic activation pathway of PAH, whereas HOPhe are considered as detoxification products. In this study, we investigated the longitudinal consistency of these metabolites over time in smokers and nonsmokers and compared their levels. Twelve smokers and 10 non-smokers provided urine samples daily for 7 days, then weekly for 6 weeks. Levels of PheT, HOPhe, and PheT/HOPhe ratios were relatively constant in most individuals, with mean coefficients of variation ranging from 29.3% to 45.7%. There were no significant changes over time in levels of the metabolites or in ratios. These results indicate that a single urine sample should be sufficient when comparing phenanthrene metabolites in different groups. PheT/HOPhe ratios were significantly higher in smokers than in nonsmokers, showing that smoking induces the diol epoxide metabolic activation pathway of phenanthrene. This finding is consistent with previous studies indicating that inducibility of PAH metabolism contributes to cancer risk in smokers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2969-2974
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2005


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