There is ample evidence that the human acetylator phenotypes are associated with drug induced phenomena. It is principally the slow acetylators who exhibit toxic adverse effects because of their relative inability to detoxify the original drug compounds. In rare instances, however, it is the rapid acetylators who are at a disadvantage. In the matter of association of spontaneous disease with either acetylator phenotype, there are two groups of disorders to consider. First, disorders in which carcinogenic amines are known to be an aetiological factor. This is because these amines are substrates for the polymorphic N-acetyltransferase activity and hence there is a possible rational basis for searching for an association. Secondly, other disorders where searches for associations are based more on hunches. In the first group there is a definite statistical association between cancer of the bladder and the slow acetylator phenotype. In prevalence studies the slow phenotype is 39% more associated with bladder cancer than is the rapid phenotype. On the basis of the evidence now available it is not possible to say whether this association is because slow acetylators develop the disease more frequently or whether they survive longer. In the second group the relevant studies show (1) a greatly increased prevalence of slow acetylators in Gilbert's disease; (2) a confirmed association between the rapid acetylator phenotype and diabetes; (3) a possible association between the rapid acetylator phenotype and breast cancer; (4) a possible association between the slow acetylator phenotype and leprosy in Chinese patients; (5) an earlier age of onset of thyrotoxicosis (Graves' disease) in slow acetylators than in rapid acetylators; (6) no evidence of an association between either phenotype and spontaneous systemic lupus erythematosus.
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