The heterocyclic aromatic amines produced by high temperature cooking of foods containing creatin(in)e and amino acids (such as beef, pork, poultry and fish) are a class of potent animal carcinogens and have been implicated indirectly in human colon and pancreas carcinogenesis. We studied the urinary excretion of a mutagenic heterocyclic aromatic amine compound, 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo-[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MelQx), among 47 black, 41 Asian (Chinese or Japanese), and 43 non-Hispanic white (white) male residents of Los Angeles County by quantitative analysis of total free and conjugated MelQx in pooled overnight urine collections. Significant interracial differences were observed. Geometric mean level in blacks was 1.3- and 3.0-fold higher than that in Asians and whites, respectively. Urinary level of MelQx was positively associated with intake frequencies of bacon, pork/ham and sausage/luncheon meats among study subjects, consistent with the observation that in Los Angeles, blacks had the highest consumption of these three food groups among the three races. Among men in Los Angeles County, the incidence rates of pancreas and colon cancers, which have been shown to be positively related to intake of fried meats, are 50% and 20% higher in blacks relative to Asians and whites, respectively. Our results are, therefore, consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to heterocyclic aromatic amines is related to risk of pancreas and colon cancers, and may in part explain the higher incidence among blacks relative to Asians and whites in Los Angeles.

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