Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 21, pp 17874–17880 | Cite as

Geographic variations in female breast cancer incidence in relation to ambient air emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Research Article


A significant geographic variation of breast cancer incidence exists, with incidence rates being much higher in industrialized regions. The objective of the current study was to assess the role of environmental factors such as exposure to ambient air pollution, specifically carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that may be playing in the geographic variations in breast cancer incidence. Female breast cancer incidence and ambient air emissions of PAHs were examined in the northeastern and southeastern regions of the USA by analyzing data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program and the State Cancer Profiles of the National Cancer Institute and from the Environmental Protection Agency. Linear regression analysis was conducted to evaluate the association between PAH emissions and breast cancer incidence in unadjusted and adjusted models. Significantly higher age-adjusted incidence rates of female breast cancer were seen in northeastern SEER regions, when compared to southeastern regions, during the years of 2000–2012. After adjusting for potential confounders, emission densities of total PAHs and four carcinogenic individual PAHs (benzo[a]pyrene, dibenz[a,h]anthracene, naphthalene, and benzo[b]fluoranthene) showed a significantly positive association with annual incidence rates of breast cancer, with a β of 0.85 (p = 0.004), 58.37 (p = 0.010), 628.56 (p = 0.002), 0.44 (p = 0.041), and 77.68 (p = 0.002), respectively, among the northeastern and southeastern states. This study suggests a potential relationship between ambient air emissions of carcinogenic PAHs and geographic variations of female breast cancer incidence in the northeastern and southeastern US. Further investigations are needed to explore these interactions and elucidate the role of PAHs in regional variations of breast cancer incidence.


Air emission Breast cancer incidence Geographic variations Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mercer University School of MedicineMaconUSA
  2. 2.Department of Community MedicineMercer University School of MedicineMaconUSA

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