Human arylamine N-acetyltransferases (CoASAc; NAT, EC 18.104.22.168) NAT1 and NAT2 play a key role in the metabolism of drugs and environmental chemicals and in the metabolic activation and detoxification of procarcinogens.
Phenotyping analyses have revealed an association between NAT enzyme activities and the risk of developing several forms of cancer. As genotyping procedures have become available for NAT1 and NAT2 gene variations, hundreds of association studies on NAT polymorphisms and cancer risk have been conducted. Here we review the findings obtained from these studies.
Evidence for a putative association of NAT1 polymorphism and myeloma, lung and bladder cancer, as well as association of NAT2 polymorphisms with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, liver, colorectal and bladder cancer have been reported. In contrast, no consistent evidence for a relevant association of NAT polymorphisms with brain, head & neck, breast, gastric, pancreatic or prostate cancer have been described.
Although preliminary data are available, further well-powered studies are required to fully elucidate the role of NAT1 in most human cancers, and that of NAT2 in astrocytoma, meningioma, esophageal, renal, cervical and testicular cancers, as well as in leukaemia and myeloma.
This review discusses controversial findings on cancer risk and putative causes of heterogeneity in the proposed associations, and it identifies topics that require further investigation, particularly mechanisms underlying association of NAT polymorphisms and risk for subsets of cancer patients with specific exposures, putative epistatic contribution of polymorphism for other xenobiotic-metabolising enzymes such as glutathione S-transferases of Cytochrome P450 enzymes, and genetic plus environmental interaction.