Breast cancer risk in relation to adipose concentrations of organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls in Long Island, New York

Steven D. Stellman, Mirjana V. Djordjevic, Julie A. Britton, Joshua E. Muscat, Marc L. Citron, Margaret Kemeny, Erna Busch, Lin Gong

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To assess a possible etiological role of organochlorine compounds in breast cancer development on Long Island, a high-risk region of New York State, concentrations of organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were measured in the adipose tissue of 232 women with breast cancer and 323 hospital controls admitted to surgery for benign breast disease or nonbreast-related conditions. Seven pesticide residues and 14 PCB congeners were assayed via a supercritical fluid extraction method followed by gas chromatography with electron capture detection. After adjustment for age and body mass index, which were strongly correlated with organochlorine levels, adipose concentrations of 1, 1-dichloro-2, 2-di(4-chlorophenyl)ethylene, total pesticides, and total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) did not differ significantly between cases and controls. The relative abundance of individual pesticide species and PCB congeners was similar in cases and controls. Odds ratios adjusted for age, BMI, hospital, and race gave no evidence of a dose-response for 1, 1-dichloro-2, 2-di(4chlorophenyl)ethylene, total pesticides, or total PCBs, whether stratified by estrogen receptor status or not. Breast cancer risk among Long Island residents was not elevated compared with residents of the adjacent New York City borough of Queens. We did not confirm a previously reported association between breast cancer risk and levels of PCB congener 118 (2, 3', 4, 4', 5-pentachlorobiphenyl), nor did we observe an association with the most abundant congener 153 (2, 2', 4, 4', 5, 5'-hexachlorobiphenyl), a strong inducer of phase I enzymes that was reported recently to have estrogenic properties. Only PCB congener 183 (2, 2', 3, 4, 4', 5', 6-heptachlorobiphenyl), which is also an inducer, was significantly associated with risk, with an adjusted odds ratio of 2.0 (95% confidence interval, 1.2-3.4) in women with adipose levels >5.67 ng/g; the biological importance of this observation is unclear without confirmation in additional studies. Although neither the present nor other studies have provided convincing evidence of an association between body burden of 1, 1, 1-trichloro-2, 2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)ethane and PCBs with cancer of the breast, these compounds are rated as 'possible' and 'probable' human carcinogens, respectively, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Investigations of associations with cancer at other sites should be carried out.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1241-1249
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology


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