Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Application of the comet assay in human biomonitoring: an hCOMET perspective.

Azqueta, Amaya; Ladeira, Carina; Giovannelli, Lisa; Boutet-Robinet, Elisa; Bonassi, Stefano; Neri, Monica; Gajski, Goran; Duthie, Susan; Del Bo’, Cristian; Riso, Patrizia; Koppen, Gudrun; Basaran, Nursen; Collins, Andrew; Møller, Peter


Amaya Azqueta

Carina Ladeira

Lisa Giovannelli

Elisa Boutet-Robinet

Stefano Bonassi

Monica Neri

Goran Gajski

Susan Duthie

Cristian Del Bo’

Patrizia Riso

Gudrun Koppen

Nursen Basaran

Andrew Collins

Peter Møller


The comet assay is a well-accepted biomonitoring tool to examine the effect of dietary, lifestyle, environmental and occupational exposure on levels of DNA damage in human cells. With such a wide range of determinants for DNA damage levels, it becomes challenging to deal with confounding and certain factors are inter-related (e.g. poor nutritional intake may correlated with smoking status). This review describes the effect of intrinsic (i.e. sex, age, tobacco smoking, occupational exposure and obesity) and extrinsic (season, environmental exposures, dietary factors, physical activity and alcohol consumption) factors on the level of DNA damage measured by the standard or enzyme-modified comet assay. Although each factor influences at least one comet assay endpoint, the collective evidence does not indicate single factors have a large impact. Thus, controlling for confounding may be necessary in a biomonitoring, but none of the factors is strong enough to be regarded a priori as a confounder. Controlling for confounding in the comet assay requires a case-by-case approach. Inter-laboratory variation in levels of DNA damage and to some extent also reproducibility in biomonitoring studies are issues that have haunted the users of the comet assay for years. Procedures to collect specimens, and their storage, are not standardized. Likewise, statistical issues related to both sample-size calculation (before sampling of specimens) and statistical analysis of the results varies between studies. This review gives guidance to statistical analysis of the typically complex exposure, co-variate, and effect relationships in human biomonitoring studies.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 31, 2020
Journal Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research
Print ISSN 1383-5742
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 783
Article Number 108288
Institution Citation AZQUETA, A., LADEIRA, C., GIOVANNELLI, L., BOUTET-ROBINET, E., BONASSI, S., NERI, M., GAJSKI, G., DUTHIE, S., DEL BO', C., RISO, P., KOPPEN, G., BASARAN, N., COLLINS, A. and M├śLLER, P. 2020. Application of the comet assay in human biomonitoring: an hCOMET perspective. Mutation research/reviews in mutation research [online], 783, article ID 108288. Available from:
Keywords DNA damage; Human cells; Dietary; Lifestyle; Environmental; Occupational exposure; Poor nutrition