Low-income countries across the world are increasingly burdened with growing rates of cancer incidence and mortality. Opportunities for prevention in these populations may be realized most readily for cancer sites with known etiologies that are amenable to intervention. Liver cancer is the sixth-most commonly occurring cancer worldwide and is the second-most common contributor to global cancer mortality. Aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) is a known and potent human hepatocarcinogen, with exposure occurring via ingestion of grains - especially maize - contaminated with Aspergillus flavus. Previous work in regions with endemic levels of liver cancer has shown that reducing AFB1 exposure attenuated liver cancer mortality - even in the presence of other known etiological exposures, such as hepatitis B virus. Guatemala experiences high rates of liver cancer - which is uniquely distributed equally between men and women - and consumes maize as a dietary staple, making the assessment of AFB1 exposure a high priority for cancer prevention efforts in this country. Therefore, we measured circulating levels of the AFB1-albumin adduct, an established biomarker of AFB1 exposure, in adults residing in five geographically and ecologically dispersed departments of Guatemala (Guatemala, Suchitepéquez, Sololá, Escuintla, and Quiché). Healthy men and women aged 40 and older were recruited for the study. Pregnant women or individuals with implanted cardiac devices were excluded from participation. Subjects (n=436) gave informed consent and provided demographic information and a venipuncture blood sample during a clinic visit. Serum was separated from whole blood, digested with protease, subjected to solid-phase extraction, and analyzed with isotope dilution ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography-triple quadrupole mass spectrometry. Serum albumin was measured by ELISA. AFB1-albumin adducts (pg AFB1-lysine adduct/mg albumin) were detectable in 100% of samples, with a mean ± SEM of 21.6 ± 2.5 and range of 0.2 - 814.8. These levels are similar to those observed in regions of China in the 1980s, prior to reductions in AFB1 exposure and liver cancer mortality. Stratification by demographic factors revealed significant differences in aflatoxin levels in urban (9.6 ± 1.3) versus rural (28.8 ± 3.9) subjects (p ≤ 0.001). Accordingly, AFB1-albumin adduct levels were lowest in the urban municipality of Escuintla (5.8 ± 1.1) and highest in rural Suchitepéquez (36.4 ± 4.8). Exposure was significantly different by sex, with men having higher levels compared to women (30.0 ± 5.4 vs. 15.3 ± 1.3, p = 0.01). These data show that AFB1 exposure in Guatemalan adults is similar to levels previously shown to increase liver cancer risk. Larger cohort and prospective studies are warranted to assess the relationship between liver cancer incidence and AFB1 exposure in this population.
Citation Format: Joshua W. Smith, Patricia A. Egner, Mariana Lazo, Alvaro Rivera, Fernanda Kroker, Neal D. Freedman, Katherine A. McGlynn, Manuel Ramirez-Zea, Eliseo Guallar, John D. Groopman. Quantitative measurement of aflatoxin-serum albumin adducts reveals substantial exposure in Guatemala, a country with high rates of liver cancer mortality in men and women [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017; 2017 Apr 1-5; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2017;77(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 4247. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2017-4247