Interspecies differences in cancer susceptibility and toxicity.(1999-11-01)One of the most complex challenges to the toxicologist represents extrapolation from laboratory animals to humans. In this article, we review interspecies differences in metabolism and toxicity of heterocyclic amines, aflatoxin B1, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), and related compounds, endocrine disrupters, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, tamoxifen, and digitoxin. As far as possible, extrapolations to human toxicity and carcinogenicity are performed. Humans may be more susceptible to the carcinogenic effect of heterocyclic amines than monkeys, rats, and mice. Especially, individuals with high CYP1A2 and 3A4 activities and the rapid acetylator phenotype may be expected to have an increased risk. Striking interspecies variation in susceptibility to aflatoxin B1 carcinogenesis is known, with rats representing the most sensitive and mice the most resistant species, refractory to dietary levels three orders of magnitude higher than rats. An efficient conjugation with glutathione, catalyzed by glutathione S-transferase mYc, confers aflatoxin B1 resistance to mice. Extremely large interspecies differences in TCDD-induced toxicity are known. The guinea pig is the most susceptible mammal known, with an LD50 in the range 1-2 micrograms TCDD/kg, whereas the hamster is the most resistant species with an LD50 greater than 3000 micrograms/kg. A number of experts have pointed out to the fact that humans appear to be less sensitive to TCDD than most laboratory animals. Human exposure to background levels of TCDD is not likely to cause an incremental cancer risk. A clear cause--effect relationship has been shown between environmental endocrine-disrupting contaminants and adverse health effects in wildlife, whereas the effects seem to be less critical for humans. Studies on DNA adduct formation and metabolism of the nonsteroidal antiestrogen tamoxifen indicate that rats and mice are orders of magnitude more susceptible than humans.