© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Occupational exposure to pesticides in tobacco fields causes genetic damage in farmers. The aim of this study was to analyze tobacco farmers chronically exposed to low doses of pesticides and nicotine (present in the tobacco leaves) in relation to absolute telomere length (aTL), and explore the influence of lifestyle characteristics, oxidative stress, and inorganic element levels. DNA was isolated from peripheral blood samples from agricultural workers and non-exposed individuals, and aTL was measured by quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) analysis. Oxidative stress (thiobarbituric acid reactive substances [TBARS], which measures oxidative damage to lipids; and toxic equivalent antioxidant capacity [TEAC], which measures total equivalent antioxidant capacity) was evaluated in serum, and inorganic element content was analyzed in whole blood through particle-induced X-ray emission technique. It was found that exposure to pesticides and tobacco smoking had significant effects on aTL. Individuals occupationally exposed to complex mixtures of pesticides in tobacco fields and individuals who smoked had decreased aTL compared with the non-exposed group. TBARS and TEAC were significantly elevated in the exposed group. There were no significant differences in inorganic elements. There was no evidence of an influence of age, gender, consumption of alcoholic beverages, or intake of fruits and vegetables on aTL within the groups. In addition, years of work in the tobacco field in the exposed group did not influence any of the variables analyzed. Although further studies were needed, these results suggested differences in telomere maintenance in tobacco farmers compared with the control group, indicating that telomere length may be a good biomarker of occupational exposure. Environ. Mol. Mutagen. 57:74-84, 2016. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.