Molecular epidemiological studies of populations at high risk for liver cancer have shown that hepatitis B virus (HBV) and aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) exposure are two major risk factors for this disease. These etiological agents, combined with nutritional deficiencies, are important for the initiation and promotion of liver cancer in various parts of the world. In Qidong, People's Republic of China, liver cancer accounts for 10% of all adult deaths, and both HBV and AFB1 exposures are common. To study temporal and possible chemical-viral interactions in people, serum samples were collected during a longitudinal study designed to measure aflatoxin molecular biomarkers in residents of Daxin Township, Qidong City, People's Republic of China. In this study, the temporal modulation of aflatoxin adduct formation with albumin over multiple lifetimes of serum albumin was examined in both HBV-positive and HBV-negative people in two periods: September-December 1993 (wave 1) and June-September 1994 (wave 2). During the 12-week monitoring period of wave 1, 120 individuals (balanced by gender and HBV status) provided a total of 792 blood samples. AFB1-albumin adducts were detected in all but one of the serum samples. The range of binding detected by RIA in the Daxin population was 0.17-4.39 pmol AFB11/mg albumin with an overall mean +/- SD of 1.51 +/- 0.21 pmol AFB11/mg albumin. The mean +/- SD for weeks 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 of wave 1 were 1.21 +/- 0.41, 1.58 +/- 0.70, 1.36 +/- 0.52, 1.71 +/- 0.44, 1.18 +/- 0.60, 2.00 +/- 0.59, and 1.68 +/- 0.34 pmol AFB1/mg albumin, respectively. During wave 2, 103 individuals from wave 1 provided a total of 396 blood samples collected monthly over wave 2, with mean +/- SD aflatoxin-albumin adduct levels of 1.19 +/- 0.37, 0.85 +/- 0.45, 0.89 +/- 0.28, and 0.61 +/- 0.15 pmol AFB1/mg albumin. Using linear regression models, the mean aflatoxin-albumin adduct levels increased (P < 0.05) during the 12 weeks of wave 1 and decreased (P < 0.05) over the 4 months of wave 2. Neither HBV surface antigen status nor gender modified either the baseline mean or the temporal trend. High-performance liquid chromatography confirmation was done on a subset of serum samples, and the results show an excellent association between the immunoassay data and high-performance liquid chromatography. Taken together, these data demonstrate that AFB1-albumin is a sensitive and specific biomarker for assessing exposure to this carcinogen in the population in Qidong.

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