The planning and evaluation of human cytogenetic studies should contemplate various confounders and effect modifiers, among these, sex and sex-related factors. The association between this variable and cytogenetic damage has been extensively studied, but conclusive evidence has thus far not been reached, especially for the most recent assays, such as the micronucleus test (MN). In the attempt to quantitatively estimate the sex effect on sister chromatid exchange (SCE), chromosomal aberration (CA), and MN in peripheral blood lymphocytes, we reanalyzed the original data sets of several biomonitoring studies performed over the last decades in 10 Italian laboratories. This approach yielded a very large database, namely 2140, 2495, and 2131 subjects screened for SCE, CA, and MN, respectively. Differences between sexes were expressed in terms of relative risk (RR) of females versus males, after adjustment for age, smoking habits, occupation exposure and inter- and intralaboratory variation. No difference between sexes was found for the frequency of SCE [RR = 1.01; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.99-1.03] and CA (RR = 1.00; 95% CI = 0.92-1.08) even if the CI of the RR for SCE includes the 3% excess in females frequently reported by the literature. Conversely, a 29% overall increase of the MN rate in females was observed in the whole data set (RR = 1.29; 95% CI = 1.20-1.38). Different trends by age of the MN rate are described in the two sexes, focusing on the peak observed in females in the menopausal period and on the subsequent decrease.

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