The present study aims to investigate the relation between exposure to low-dose benzene and the occurrence of oxidative DNA damage in gasoline station workers, as well as the possible role of interfering or confounding factors. Urine levels of 8-OHdG were evaluated by a competitive immunoassay in a group of 80 men, employed in gasoline stations located in East Sicily and compared with a control group (n = 63) of male office employees not occupationally exposed to benzene. Information regarding socio-demographic characteristics, lifestyle and job-related records were provided through a questionnaire. Significantly higher (p < 0.05) urinary t,t,-MA and 8-OHdG levels were observed in gasoline station attendants compared to subjects not exposed to benzene. Pearson's test demonstrated a strong correlation (r = 0.377, p < 0.001) between 8-OHdG and benzene exposure level. 8-OHdG significantly correlated also with job seniority, (r = 0.312, p < 0.01), whereas the relation with age resulted weaker (r = 0.242, p < 0.05). Multiple linear regression analysis, performed to exclude a role for confounding factors, showed that variables like gender, smoking habit, alcohol consumption and BMI did not have a significant influence on the measured biomarkers. No subject enrolled in the study presented signs or symptoms of work-related disease or other illness linked to oxidative stress. These results suggest that low-level chronic exposure to benzene among gasoline station attendants can determine oxidative damage on DNA, as indicated by alteration of 8-OHdG which may represent a non-invasive biomarker of early genotoxic damage in exposed subjects.
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