Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Serum organochlorine pesticides and PCBs and breast cancer risk: results from a prospective analysis (USA)

  • Joanne F. Dorgan
  • John W. Brock
  • Nathaniel Rothman
  • Larry L. Needham
  • Rosetta Miller
  • Hugh E. Stephenson
  • Nicki Schussler
  • Philip R. Taylor


Objective: To prospectively evaluate relationships of organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) with breast cancer, we conducted a case-control study nested in a cohort using the Columbia, Missouri Breast Cancer Serum Bank.

Methods: Women donated blood in 1977–87, and during up to 9.5 years follow-up, 105 donors who met the inclusion criteria for the current study were diagnosed with breast cancer. For each case, two controls matched on age and date of blood collection were selected. Five DDT [2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-1,1,1- trichloroethane] analogs, 13 other organochlorine pesticides, and 27 PCBs were measured in serum.

Results: Women in the upper three quartiles of hexachlorobenzene were at twice the risk of breast cancer compared to those in the lowest quartile. However, there was no evidence for a dose-response relationship, and the association was limited to women whose blood was collected close to the time of diagnosis. Women with higher serum levels of other organochlorine pesticides and PCBs showed no increased risk of breast cancer overall, although positive associations were suggested for PCB-118 and PCB-138 when blood was collected close to the time of diagnosis.

Conclusions: Results of this study do not support a role for organochlorine pesticides and PCBs in breast cancer etiology.

breast neoplasms epidemiology organochlorine pesticides polychlorinated biphenyls 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Adami HO, Lipworth L, Titus-Ernstoff L, et al. (1995) Organochlorine compounds and estrogen-related cancers in women. Cancer Causes Control 6: 551-566.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Safe SH, Zacharewski T (1997) Organochlorine exposure and risk for breast cancer. Prog Clin Biol Res 396: 133-145.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Wolff MS, Toniolo PG (1995) Environmental organochlorine exposure as a potential etiologic factor in breast cancer. Environ Health Perspect 103(Suppl 7): 141-145.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Estabrook RW (1996) The remarkable P450s: a historical overview of these versatile hemeprotein catalysts. FASEB J 10: 202-204.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Davidson NE, Yager JD (1997) Pesticides and breast cancer: fact or fad. J Natl Cancer Inst 89: 1743-1744.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Oakley GG, Devanaboyina U, Robertson LW, Gupta RC (1996) Oxidative DNA damage induced by activation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): implications for PCB-induced oxidative stress in breast cancer. Chem Res Toxicol 9: 1285-1292.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Wolff MS, Toniolo PG, Lee EW, Rivera M, Dubin N (1993) Blood levels of organochlorine residues and risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 85: 648-652.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Krieger N, Wolff MS, Hiatt RA, Rivera M, Vogelman J, Orentreich N (1994) Breast cancer and serum organochlorines: a prospective study among white, black, and Asian women. J Natl Cancer Inst 86: 589-599.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hunter DJ, Hankinson SE, Laden F, et al. (1997) Plasma organochlorine levels and the risk of breast cancer. New Engl. J Med 337: 1253-1258.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Lopez-Carrillo L, Blair A, Lopez-Cervantes M, et al. (1997) Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane serum levels and breast cancer risk: a case-control study from Mexico. Cancer Res 57: 3728-3732.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Moysich KB, Ambrosone CB, Vena JE, et al. (1998) Environmental organochlorine exposure and postmenopausal breast cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 7: 181-188.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Brock JW, Burse VW, Ashley DL, et al. (1996) An improved analysis for chlorinated pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in human and bovine sera using solid-phase extraction. J Anal Toxicol 20: 528-536.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Phillips DL, Pirkle JL, Burse VW, Bernert JT, Henderson LO, Needham LL (1989) Chlorinated hydrocarbon levels in human serum: effects of fasting and feeding. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 18: 495-500.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Breslow NE, Day NE (1980) Statistical Methods in Cancer Research, Vol. I, The Analysis of Case-Control Studies. Lyon, (France): International Agency for Research on Cancer, 248-279.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    SAS Institute, Inc. (1990) SAS User's Guide, Version 6. Cary (NC, USA): SAS Institute, Inc.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Shekhar PVM, Werdell J, Basrur VS (1997) Environmental estrogen stimulation of growth and estrogen receptor function in preneoplastic and cancerous human breast cell lines. J Natl Cancer Inst 89: 1774-1782.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Soto AM, Chung KL, Sonnenschein C (1994) The pesticides endosulfan, toxaphene, and dieldrin have estrogenic effects on human estrogen sensitive cells. Environ Health Perspect 102: 380-383.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Steinmetz R, Young PCM, Caperell-Grant A, et al. (1996) Novel estrogenic action of the pesticide residue β-hexachlorocyclohexane in human breast cancer cells. Cancer Res 56: 5403-5409.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kutz FW, Wood PH, Bottimore DP (1991) Organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls in human adipose tissue. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 120: 1-82.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Dewailly E, Ayotte P, Laliberte C, Weber JP, Gingras S, Nantel AJ (1996) Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethylene (DDE) concentrations in the breast milk of women in Quebec. Am J Public Health 86: 1241-1246.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Falck F, Ricci A, Wolff MS, Godbold J, Deckers P (1992) Pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyl residues in human breast lipids and their relation to breast cancer. Arch Environ Health 47: 143-146.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Dewailly E, Dodin S, Verreault R, et al. (1994) High organochlorine body burden in women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 86: 232-234.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Mussalo-Rauhamaa H, Hasanen E, Pyysalo H, Kauppila AR, Pantzar P (1990) Occurrence of beta-hexachlorocyclohexane in breast cancer patients. Cancer 66: 2124-2128.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Unger M, Kiaer H, Blichert-Toft M, Olsen J, Clausen J (1984) Organochlorine compounds in human breast fat from deceased with and without breast cancer and in biopsy material from newly diagnosed patients undergoing breast surgery. Environ Res 34: 24-28.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    van't Veer P, Lobbezoo IE, Martin-Moreno JM, et al. (1997) DDT (dicophane) and postmenopausal breast cancer in Europe: case-control study. BMJ 315: 81-85.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Wolff MS, Thornton J, Fischbein AS, Lilis R, Selikoff IJ (1982) Disposition of polychlorinated biphenyl congeners in occupationally exposed persons. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 62: 294-306.Google Scholar
  27. 26.
    Needham LL, Burse VW, Head SL, et al. (1990) Adipose tissue/serum partitioning of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides in humans. Chemosphere 20: 975-980.Google Scholar
  28. 27.
    Savitz DA. Re: (1994) Breast cancer and serum organochlorines: a prospective study among white, black, and Asian women [Letter]. J Natl Cancer Inst 86: 1255.Google Scholar
  29. 28.
    Wolff MS, Camann D, Gammon M, Stellman SD (1997) Proposed PCB congener groupings for epidemiological studies [Letter]. Environ Health Perspect 105: 13-14.Google Scholar
  30. 29.
    Kelsey JL (1993) Breast cancer epidemiology: summary and future directions. Epidemiol Rev 15: 256-263.Google Scholar
  31. 30.
    Palmer JR, Rosenberg L (1993) Cigarette smoking and the risk of breast cancer. Epidemiol Rev 15: 145-156.Google Scholar
  32. 31.
    O'Connell DL, Hulka BS, Chambless LE, Wilkinson WE, Deubner DC (1987) Cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and breast cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst 78: 229-234.Google Scholar
  33. 32.
    Braga C, Negri E, La Vecchia C, Filiberti R, Franceschi S (1996) Cigarette smoking and the risk of breast cancer. Eur J Cancer Prev 5: 159-164.Google Scholar
  34. 33.
    Brunet J, Ghadrian P, Rebbeck TR, et al. (1998) Effects of smoking on breast cancer in carriers mutant BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. J Natl Cancer Inst 90: 761-766.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanne F. Dorgan
    • 1
  • John W. Brock
    • 2
  • Nathaniel Rothman
    • 1
  • Larry L. Needham
    • 2
  • Rosetta Miller
    • 3
  • Hugh E. Stephenson
    • 4
  • Nicki Schussler
    • 5
  • Philip R. Taylor
    • 6
  1. 1.Division of Cancer Epidemiology and GeneticsNational Cancer InstituteBethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Division of Environmental Health Laboratory SciencesNational Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Ellis Fischel Cancer CenterColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.Growdon Distinguished Professor of Surgery EmeritusUniversity of Missouri Health Sciences CenterColumbiaUSA
  5. 5.Information Management Services, Inc.Silver SpringUSA
  6. 6.Division of Clinical SciencesNational Cancer InstituteBethesdaUSA

Personalised recommendations