Experimental studies suggest that B vitamins such as niacin, folate, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 may protect against DNA damage induced by ionising radiation (IR). However, to date, data from IR-exposed human populations are not available. We examined the intakes of these B vitamins and their food sources in relation to the frequency of chromosome translocations as a biomarker of cumulative DNA damage, in eighty-two male airline pilots. Dietary intakes were estimated by using a self-administered semi-quantitative FFQ. Translocations in peripheral blood lymphocytes were scored by using fluorescence in situ hybridisation whole-chromosome painting. Negative binomial regression was used to estimate rate ratios and 95 % CI, adjusted for age and occupational and lifestyle factors. We observed a significant inverse association between translocation frequency and dietary intake of niacin (P = 0·02): adjusted rate ratio for subjects in the highest tertile compared with the lowest tertile was 0·58 (95 % CI 0·40, 0·83). Translocation frequency was not associated with total niacin intake from food and supplements as well as dietary or total intake of folate, riboflavin or vitamin B6 or B12. However, the adjusted rate ratios were significant for subjects with ≥ median compared with < median intake of whole grains (P = 0·03) and red and processed meat (P = 0·01): 0·69 (95 % CI 0·50, 0·96) and 1·56 (95 % CI 1·13, 2·16), respectively. Our data suggest that a high intake of niacin from food or a diet high in whole grains but low in red and processed meat may protect against cumulative DNA damage in IR-exposed persons.
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