The European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer multicenter Euroscan trial was set up to prevent the occurrence of second primary tumors in the upper aerodigestive and respiratory tract in patients cured for early stage head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. One randomized group of patients receive daily N-acetylcysteine, an antioxidant that may be protective especially in the early steps of carcinogenesis. Mutagen sensitivity, measured as sensitivity to bleomycin in peripheral blood lymphocytes, has been found to be increased in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and is hypothesized to reflect cancer susceptibility. The aim of this study was to investigate whether mutagen sensitivity is influenced by oral N-acetylcysteine supplementation and can therefore be used as intermediate end point in chemoprevention. Patients (n = 19) who had various periods of N-acetylcysteine supplementation (600 mg daily for 3-9 months) were analyzed. In addition, a patient group (n = 14) that did not receive N-acetylcysteine supplementation was analyzed for comparison. Our results show no evidence that administration of N-acetylcysteine did influence the mutagen sensitivity level. The only explanatory variable in the analysis of the difference between two samples of one person was the b/c value of the first measurement. Moreover, the variability in these repeated measurements (coefficient of variation of 14%) indicates that additional studies should be performed to minimize this variability and to optimize the testing of mutagen sensitivity to accurately identify individual patients at high risk for the development of multiple primary tumors.

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