The number of studies evaluating the effect of environmental exposure to genotoxic agents in children has rapidly increased in the last few years. The frequency of micronuclei (MN) in peripheral blood lymphocytes determined with the cytokinesis block assay is among the most popular biomarkers used for this purpose, although large inter- and intralaboratory variability of this end point has been observed in population studies. The availability of reference measures is therefore necessary for laboratories to validate protocols and analytical procedures, and for molecular epidemiologists, as well, to estimate the statistical power of studies and to assess the quality of data. In this article, we provide estimates of the baseline frequency of MN in children, conducting a meta-analysis of MN frequency reported by field studies in children and a pooled analysis of individual data [available from published studies and from the Human Micronucleus International Collaborative Study (HUMN) database]. Thirteen articles were selected for meta-analysis, and individual data included in the pooled analysis were retrieved from the databases of 12 laboratories. Overall means of 4.48 [95% confidence interval (CI), 3.35-5.98] and 5.70 (95% CI, 4.29-7.56) MN per 1,000 binucleated cells were estimated by the meta- and pooled analysis, respectively. A clear effect of age was detected, even within the restricted range of pediatric age considered, with significantly lower frequency values in newborns. No influence of sex was found. The study showed the advantage of using data from large collaborative studies and suggested a synergistic use of meta- and pooled analysis.
Keywords: Adolescent; Child; Child, Preschool; Databases, Factual; Female; Humans; Infant; Infant, Newborn; Lymphocytes; Male; Meta-Analysis as Topic; Micronuclei, Chromosome-Defective; Micronucleus Tests; Reference Values; Reproducibility of Results