Association Between Family History of Cancer and Mutagen Sensitivity in Upper Aerodigestive Tract Cancer Patients

Melissa L. Bondy, Margaret R. Spitz, Susan Halabi, John J. Fueger, Stimson P. Schantz, Dory Sample, T. C. Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


This study evaluated the relationship between family history of cancer and bleomycin-induced mutagen sensitivity. The study included 108 patients who registered at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center from June 1987 to June 1991 with histologically confirmed and previously untreated squamous cell carcinoma of the upper aerodigestive tract. All patients underwent the mutagen sensitivity assay and completed a self-administered risk evaluation questionnaire, including a detailed family history. The patients reported having 650 first-degree relatives, including 54 cases with cancers. The patients were classified as mutagen sensitive (>1 chromosome break/cell) or not mutagen sensitive (<0.99 chromosome breaks/cell). Odds ratios (ORs) were calculated to test for significant associations between mutagen sensitivity and family history of cancer. We found a significant OR (OR = 2.63; 95% confidence interval = 1.06-6.53) for patients who were mutagen sensitive and had one first-degree relative affected with cancer. For mutagen-sensitive patients with two or more first-degree relatives affected with cancer, the OR increased to 6.59 (95% confidence interval = 1.69-25.72). Although 88% of the patients were ever smokers, cigarette smoking was not found to be related to mutagen sensitivity. The study findings suggest that patients who have defective DNA repair capability as evidenced by the mutagen sensitivity assay are significantly more likely to report a family history of cancer than patients who are not mutagen sensitive. Further studies are needed to confirm that mutagen- sensitive individuals have inherited an increased risk of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-106
Number of pages4
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 1993
Externally publishedYes


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