Cooked food contains a variety of mutagenic heterocyclic amines. All the mutagenic heterocyclic amines tested were carcinogenic in rodents when given in the diet at 0.01–0.08%. Most of them induced cancer in the liver and in other organs. It is noteworthy that the most abundant heterocyclic amine in cooked food, 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimi-dazo[4,5-b]pyridine, produced colon and mammary carcinomas in rats and lymphomas in mice but no hepatomas in either. 2-Amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline induced liver cancer in monkeys. Formation of adducts with guanine by heterocyclic amines is presumably involved in their carcinogenesis. Quantification of heterocyclic amines in cooked foods and in human urine indicated that humans are continuously exposed to low levels of them in the diet. These low levels of heterocyclic amines are probably insufficient to produce human cancers by themselves. However, a linear relationship between DNA adduct levels and a wide range of doses of a heterocyclic amine was demonstrated in animals. It suggests that even very low doses of heterocyclic amines form DNA adducts and may be implicated in the development of human cancer under conditions in which many other mutagens-carcinogens, tumor promoters, and factors stimulating cancer progression exist.


Presented at “Nutrition and Cancer,” the first conference of the International Conference Series on Nutrition and Health Promotion, April 17–19, 1991, Atlanta, GA. This study was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Cancer Research from the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Japan, and a Grant-in-Aid from the Ministry of Health and Welfare for a Comprehensive 10-Year Strategy for Cancer Control, Japan.

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