Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide. Recent studies suggest that organic solvent exposure could be closely related to breast cancer, although the evidence remains controversial. Thus, we evaluated existing epidemiological evidence for the association between occupational solvent exposure and breast cancer. PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library were searched to identify published case–control and cohort studies that addressed occupational exposure to organic solvents and breast cancer, up to April, 2021. Meta-analyses using random-effects models were conducted to obtain the pooled odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) on the incidence of breast cancer in relation to occupational exposure. The pooled OR of breast cancer among workers exposed to organic solvents overall was 1.18 (95%CI, 1.11 ~ 1.25; I2 = 76.3%; 24 studies), compared to those with no exposure. After stratification by menopause and study location, it was revealed that the association between occupational exposure to organic solvents and the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women (OR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.09 ~ 1.67; I2 = 73.4%; 7 studies) was significant, and there was also a clear association in workers in Europe (OR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.12 ~ 1.32; I2 = 82.9%; 13 studies). We observed a significant association between occupational exposure to organic solvents and breast cancer in both cohort and case–control studies.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Availability of data and materials
Band, P. R., Le, N. D., Fang, R., Deschamps, M., Gallagher, R. P., & Yang, P. (2000). Identification of occupational cancer risks in British Columbia. A population-based case-control study of 995 incident breast cancer cases by menopausal status, controlling for confounding factors. J Occup Environ Med, 42(3):284–310. https://doi.org/10.1097/00043764-200003000-00010
Behl, T., Sharma, A., Sharma, L., Sehgal, A., Zengin, G., Brata, R., … Bungau, S. (2020). Exploring the multifaceted therapeutic potential of Withaferin A and its derivatives. Biomedicines, 8(12). doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines8120571
Blair A, Hartge P, Stewart PA, McAdams M, Lubin J (1998) Mortality and cancer incidence of aircraft maintenance workers exposed to trichloroethylene and other organic solvents and chemicals: extended follow up. Occup Environ Med 55(3):161–171. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.55.3.161
Brody JG, Moysich KB, Humblet O, Attfield KR, Beehler GP, Rudel RA (2007) Environmental pollutants and breast cancer: epidemiologic studies. Cancer 109(12 Suppl):2667–2711. https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.22655
Brophy JT, Keith MM, Gorey KM, Luginaah I, Laukkanen E, Hellyer D, Gilbertson M (2006) Occupation and breast cancer: a Canadian case-control study. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1076:765–777. https://doi.org/10.1196/annals.1371.019
Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. (1999). Canadian water quality guidelines for the protection of aquatic life: chlorinated ethenes—1,1,2-trichloroethene (trichloroethylene). Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Chang YM, Tai CF, Yang SC, Lin RS, Sung FC, Shih TS, Liou SH (2005) Cancer incidence among workers potentially exposed to chlorinated solvents in an electronics factory. J Occup Health 47(2):171–180. https://doi.org/10.1539/joh.47.171
Clemons M, Goss P (2001) Estrogen and the risk of breast cancer. N Engl J Med 344(4):276–285. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM200101253440407
Cocco P, Figgs L, Dosemeci M, Hayes R, Linet MS, Hsing AW (1998) Case-control study of occupational exposures and male breast cancer. Occup Environ Med 55(9):599–604. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.55.9.599
Collaborative Group On Epidemiological Studies Of Ovarian, C., Beral, V., Gaitskell, K., Hermon, C., Moser, K., Reeves, G., & Peto, R (2015) Menopausal hormone use and ovarian cancer risk: individual participant meta-analysis of 52 epidemiological studies. Lancet 385(9980):1835–1842. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61687-1
Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast, C (2019) Type and timing of menopausal hormone therapy and breast cancer risk: individual participant meta-analysis of the worldwide epidemiological evidence. Lancet 394(10204):1159–1168. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31709-X
Cullinan P, Munoz X, Suojalehto H, Agius R, Jindal S, Sigsgaard T, Moitra S (2017) Occupational lung diseases: from old and novel exposures to effective preventive strategies. Lancet Respir Med 5(5):445–455. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(16)30424-6
Dossus L, Benusiglio PR (2015) Lobular breast cancer: incidence and genetic and non-genetic risk factors. Breast Cancer Res 17:37. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13058-015-0546-7
Duval S, Tweedie R (2000) Trim and fill: a simple funnel-plot-based method of testing and adjusting for publication bias in meta-analysis. Biometrics 56(2):455–463. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0006-341x.2000.00455.x
Egger M, Davey Smith G, Schneider M, Minder C (1997) Bias in meta-analysis detected by a simple, graphical test. BMJ 315(7109):629–634. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7109.629
Ekenga CC, Parks CG, Sandler DP (2015) Chemical exposures in the workplace and breast cancer risk: a prospective cohort study. Int J Cancer 137(7):1765–1774. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.29545
Fahad Ullah M (2019) Breast cancer: current perspectives on the disease status. Adv Exp Med Biol 1152:51–64. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-20301-6_4
Fenga C (2016) Occupational exposure and risk of breast cancer. Biomed Rep 4(3):282–292. https://doi.org/10.3892/br.2016.575
Ganguly, S., Naik, D., Muskara, A., & Mian, O. Y. (2021). The nexus of endocrine signaling and cancer: how steroid hormones influence genomic stability. Endocrinology, 162(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1210/endocr/bqaa177
Gardner KM, Ou Shu X, Jin F, Dai Q, Ruan Z, Thompson SJ, Zheng W (2002) Occupations and breast cancer risk among Chinese women in urban Shanghai. Am J Ind Med 42(4):296–308. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.10112
Giordano SH (2005) A review of the diagnosis and management of male breast cancer. Oncologist 10(7):471–479. https://doi.org/10.1634/theoncologist.10-7-471
Giordano SH (2018) Breast cancer in men. N Engl J Med 379(14):1385–1386. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMc1809194
Giordano SH, Perkins GH, Broglio K, Garcia SG, Middleton LP, Buzdar AU, Hortobagyi GN (2005) Adjuvant systemic therapy for male breast carcinoma. Cancer 104(11):2359–2364. https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.21526
Glass DC, Heyworth J, Thomson AK, Peters S, Saunders C, Fritschi L (2015) Occupational exposure to solvents and risk of breast cancer. Am J Ind Med 58(9):915–922. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.22478
Gray JM, Rasanayagam S, Engel C, Rizzo J (2017) State of the evidence 2017: an update on the connection between breast cancer and the environment. Environ Health 16(1):94. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-017-0287-4
Gustavsson P, Andersson T, Gustavsson A, Reuterwall C (2017) Cancer incidence in female laboratory employees: extended follow-up of a Swedish cohort study. Occup Environ Med 74(11):823–826. https://doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2016-104184
Habel LA, Stanford JL, Vaughan TL, Rossing MA, Voigt LF, Weiss NS, Daling JR (1995) Occupation and breast cancer risk in middle-aged women. J Occup Environ Med 37(3):349–356. https://doi.org/10.1097/00043764-199503000-00012
Hansen J (1999) Breast cancer risk among relatively young women employed in solvent-using industries. Am J Ind Med 36(1):43–47. https://doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199907)36:1%3c43::aid-ajim6%3e3.0.co;2-a
Hansen J (2000) Elevated risk for male breast cancer after occupational exposure to gasoline and vehicular combustion products. Am J Ind Med 37(4):349–352. https://doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(200004)37:4%3c349::aid-ajim4%3e3.0.co;2-l
Harbeck N, Gnant M (2017) Breast cancer. Lancet 389(10074):1134–1150. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31891-8
Henderson BE, Ross RK, Pike MC, Casagrande JT (1982) Endogenous hormones as a major factor in human cancer. Cancer Res 42(8):3232–3239
Higgins JP, Thompson SG (2002) Quantifying heterogeneity in a meta-analysis. Stat Med 21(11):1539–1558. https://doi.org/10.1002/sim.1186
Hooiveld M, Haveman W, Roskes K, Bretveld R, Burstyn I, Roeleveld N (2006) Adverse reproductive outcomes among male painters with occupational exposure to organic solvents. Occup Environ Med 63(8):538–544. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.2005.026013
Katsouyanni K, Trichopoulou A, Stuver S, Vassilaros S, Papadiamantis Y, Bournas N, Trichopoulos D (1994) Ethanol and breast cancer: an association that may be both confounded and causal. Int J Cancer 58(3):356–361. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.2910580308
Khanjani N, Hoving JL, Forbes AB, Sim MR (2007) Systematic review and meta-analysis of cyclodiene insecticides and breast cancer. J Environ Sci Health C Environ Carcinog Ecotoxicol Rev 25(1):23–52. https://doi.org/10.1080/10590500701201711
Koenig KL, Pasternack BS, Shore RE, Strax P (1991) Hair dye use and breast cancer: a case-control study among screening participants. Am J Epidemiol 133(10):985–995. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a115818
L.G. Costa, & Aschner, M. (2014). Organic solvents. In Michael J. Aminoff & R. B. Daroff (Eds.), Encyclopedia of the Neurological Sciences (Second Edition ed., pp. 694–695): Academic Press.
Labreche F, Goldberg MS, Valois MF, Nadon L (2010) Postmenopausal breast cancer and occupational exposures. Occup Environ Med 67(4):263–269. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.2009.049817
Labrèche F, Goldberg MS, Valois MF, Nadon L (2010) Postmenopausal breast cancer and occupational exposures. Occup Environ Med 67(4):263–269. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.2009.049817
Labreche FP, Goldberg MS (1997) Exposure to organic solvents and breast cancer in women: a hypothesis. Am J Ind Med 32(1):1–14. https://doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199707)32:1%3c1::aid-ajim1%3e3.0.co;2-3
Lamba AB, Ward MH, Weeks JL, Dosemeci M (2001) Cancer mortality patterns among hairdressers and barbers in 24 US states, 1984 to 1995. J Occup Environ Med 43(3):250–258. https://doi.org/10.1097/00043764-200103000-00013
Laouali N, Pilorget C, Cyr D, Neri M, Kaerlev L, Sabroe S, Guénel P (2018) Occupational exposure to organic solvents and risk of male breast cancer: a European multicenter case-control study. Scand J Work Environ Health 44(3):310–322. https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.3717
Lee CT, Johannson KA (2020) Occupational exposures and IPF: when the dust unsettles. Thorax 75(10):828–829. https://doi.org/10.1136/thoraxjnl-2020-215567
Leso, V., Ercolano, M. L., Cioffi, D. L., & Iavicoli, I. (2019). Occupational chemical exposure and breast cancer risk according to hormone receptor status: a systematic review. Cancers (Basel), 11(12). doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/cancers11121882
Lynge E, Anttila A, Hemminki K (1997) Organic solvents and cancer. Cancer Causes Control 8(3):406–419. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1018461406120
Manouchehri E, Taghipour A, Ghavami V, Ebadi A, Homaei F, LatifnejadRoudsari R (2021) Night-shift work duration and breast cancer risk: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Womens Health 21(1):89. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-021-01233-4
Mertens JA. (2007). Chlorocarbons and chlorohydroxycarbons, Survey. In Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology (5 ed., Vol. 6, pp. 226–252). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Mikoczy Z, Schutz A, Hagmar L (1994) Cancer incidence and mortality among Swedish leather tanners. Occup Environ Med 51(8):530–535. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.51.8.530
Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG, Group, P (2009) Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. BMJ 339. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b2535
Mulware SJ (2013) The mammary gland carcinogens: the role of metal compounds and organic solvents. Int J Breast Cancer 2013:640851. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/640851
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2014). Organic solvent neurotoxicity. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/87-104/
Nelson NA, Robins TG, White RF, Garrison RP (1994) A case-control study of chronic neuropsychiatric disease and organic solvent exposure in automobile assembly plant workers. Occup Environ Med 51(5):302–307. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.51.5.302
Oddone E, Edefonti V, Scaburri A, Vai T, Bai E, Modonesi C, Imbriani M (2014) Female breast cancer and electrical manufacturing: results of a nested case-control study. J Occup Health 56(5):369–378. https://doi.org/10.1539/joh.14-0034-oa
Pedersen JE, Strandberg-Larsen K, Andersson M, Hansen J (2020) Occupational exposure to specific organic solvents and risk of subtypes of breast cancer in a large population of Danish women, 1964–2016. Occup Environ Med. https://doi.org/10.1136/oemed-2020-106865
Peplonska B, Stewart P, Szeszenia-Dabrowska N, Lissowska J, Brinton LA, Gromiec JP, Blair A (2010) Occupational exposure to organic solvents and breast cancer in women. Occup Environ Med 67(11):722–729. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.2009.046557
Peremiquel-Trillas P, Benavente Y, Martín-Bustamante M, Casabonne D, Pérez-Gómez B, Gómez-Acebo I, Costas L (2019) Alkylphenolic compounds and risk of breast and prostate cancer in the MCC-Spain study. Environ Int 122:389–399. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2018.12.007
Petralia SA, Chow WH, McLaughlin J, Jin F, Gao YT, Dosemeci M (1998) Occupational risk factors for breast cancer among women in Shanghai. Am J Ind Med 34(5):477–483. https://doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199811)34:5%3c477::aid-ajim8%3e3.0.co;2-n
Petralia SA, Vena JE, Freudenheim JL, Dosemeci M, Michalek A, Goldberg MS, Graham S (1999) Risk of premenopausal breast cancer in association with occupational exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and benzene. Scand J Work Environ Health 25(3):215–221. https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.426
Pollan M, Gustavsson P (1999) High-risk occupations for breast cancer in the Swedish female working population. Am J Public Health 89(6):875–881. https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.89.6.875
Ray RM, Gao DL, Li W, Wernli KJ, Astrakianakis G, Seixas NS, Checkoway H (2007) Occupational exposures and breast cancer among women textile workers in Shanghai. Epidemiology 18(3):383–392. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.ede.0000259984.40934.ae
Rennix CP, Quinn MM, Amoroso PJ, Eisen EA, Wegman DH (2005) Risk of breast cancer among enlisted army women occupationally exposed to volatile organic compounds. Am J Ind Med 48(3):157–167. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.20201
Rodgers KM, Udesky JO, Rudel RA, Brody JG (2018) Environmental chemicals and breast cancer: an updated review of epidemiological literature informed by biological mechanisms. Environ Res 160:152–182. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2017.08.045
Shih YW, O’Brien AP, Hung CS, Chen KH, Hou WH, Tsai HT (2021) Exposure to radiofrequency radiation increases the risk of breast cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Exp Ther Med 21(1):23. https://doi.org/10.3892/etm.2020.9455
Smith, M. T. (2010). Advances in understanding benzene health effects and susceptibility. Annu Rev Public Health, 31, 133–148 132. p following 148. doi:https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.publhealth.012809.103646
Stang A (2010) Critical evaluation of the Newcastle-Ottawa scale for the assessment of the quality of nonrandomized studies in meta-analyses. Eur J Epidemiol 25(9):603–605. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-010-9491-z
Sun YS, Zhao Z, Yang ZN, Xu F, Lu HJ, Zhu ZY, Zhu HP (2017) Risk factors and preventions of breast cancer. Int J Biol Sci 13(11):1387–1397. https://doi.org/10.7150/ijbs.21635
Sung H, Ferlay J, Siegel RL, Laversanne M, Soerjomataram I, Jemal A, Bray F (2021) Global cancer statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN estimates of incidence and mortality worldwide for 36 cancers in 185 countries. CA Cancer J Clin 71(3):209–249. https://doi.org/10.3322/caac.21660
Sung TI, Chen PC, Jyuhn-Hsiarn Lee L, Lin YP, Hsieh GY, Wang JD (2007) Increased standardized incidence ratio of breast cancer in female electronics workers. BMC Public Health 7:102. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-7-102
Talibov M, Hansen J, Heikkinen S, Martinsen JI, Sparen P, Tryggvadottir L, Pukkala E (2019) Occupational exposures and male breast cancer: a nested case-control study in the Nordic countries. Breast 48:65–72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.breast.2019.09.004
Telang NT, Basu A, Modak MJ, Osborne MP (1990) Cellular ras protooncogene expression in human mammary explant cultures. A potential marker for chemical carcinogenesis. Ann N Y Acad Sci 586:230–237. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.1990.tb17811.x
Thompson D, Kriebel D, Quinn MM, Wegman DH, Eisen EA (2005) Occupational exposure to metalworking fluids and risk of breast cancer among female autoworkers. Am J Ind Med 47(2):153–160. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.20132
Videnros C, Selander J, Wiebert P, Albin M, Plato N, Borgquist S, Gustavsson P (2020) Investigating the risk of breast cancer among women exposed to chemicals: a nested case-control study using improved exposure estimates. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 93(2):261–269. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-019-01479-4
Weiderpass E, Meo M, Vainio H (2011) Risk factors for breast cancer, including occupational exposures. Saf Health Work 2(1):1–8. https://doi.org/10.5491/SHAW.2011.2.1.1
Weiderpass E, Pukkala E, Kauppinen T, Mutanen P, Paakkulainen H, Vasama-Neuvonen K, Partanen T (1999) Breast cancer and occupational exposures in women in Finland. Am J Ind Med 36(1):48–53. https://doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1097-0274(199907)36:1%3c48::aid-ajim7%3e3.0.co;2-2
The authors declare no competing interests.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
Consent for publication
Responsible editor: Lotfi Aleya.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
What is already known about this subject?
• Work-related diseases and injuries have always been followed closely by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the European Union (EU).
• Numerous epidemiological studies present conflicting evidence on the relationships between occupational exposure to organic solvents and breast cancer.
What are the new findings?
• This is the first meta-analysis on the association between occupational exposure to organic solvents and breast cancer.
• This meta-analysis revealed that occupational exposure to organic solvents is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, especially for premenopausal women.
How might this impact on policy or clinical practice in the foreseeable future?
• The findings of this study can be helpful to provide an extra basis for public health sectors and clinicians to take measures to prevent breast cancer occurrence in high-risk occupations.
The original online version of this article was revised: The statement for the equal contribution of the Authors is inserted in the proof.
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Xiao, W., Huang, J., Wang, J. et al. Occupational exposure to organic solvents and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Environ Sci Pollut Res 29, 1605–1618 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-17100-6