The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Blood organochlorine levels and breast cancer risk

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Although it’s been suggested exposure to environmental pollutants might increase the risk of breast cancer, most studies have not found a link.

Organochlorines

Some of the most common and well-studied environmental pollutants are organochlorines. Organochlorines include:

  • The pesticide DDE (1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene)
  • The industrial chemicals PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)

A good way to assess exposure to organochlorines is to measure the levels of these chemicals in a person’s blood.

The results of most studies that have measured blood levels of DDE and PCBs, including the Long Island Breast Cancer Study, have found no link between increased blood levels of these chemicals and breast cancer risk [1].

Learn more about organochlorines and breast cancer risk.

Learn more about the environment and breast cancer risk.

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies

See how this risk factor compares with other risk factors for breast cancer. 

quote_icon

Komen Perspectives

Read our perspective on pesticides and breast cancer risk.*

quote_icon

Komen Perspectives

Read our perspective on cancer cluster studies of pesticides and breast cancer risk.*

* Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date at this time.   

Study selection criteria: Nested case-control studies with at least 150 breast cancer cases, meta-analyses and pooled analyses.

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.  

Study

Study Population
(number of participants)

Relative Risk of Breast Cancer in Women with the Highest Blood Levels Compared to Women with the Lowest,
RR (95% CI)

 DDEPCBs

Nested case-control studies

 

Cases

Controls

 

 

Millikan et al. [2]

748

659

1.09
(0.79-1.51)

1.09
(0.79-1.52)

Raaschou-Nielsen et al. [3]

409

409

0.7
(0.5-1.2)

1.1
(0.7-1.7)

Laden et al. [4]

381

381

0.82
(0.49-1.37)

0.84
(0.47-1.52)

Helzlsouer et al. [5]

346

346

0.73
(0.40-1.32)

1.12
(0.59-2.15)

Hoyer et al. [6-7]

240

477

0.88
(0.56-1.37)†

1.11
(0.70-1.77)†

Krieger et al. [8]

150

150

NS

NS

Ward et al. [9]

150

150

NS

NS

Pooled and meta-analyses

Laden et al. [10]

1,400

1,642

0.83
(0.62-1.11)

0.81
(0.63-1.04)

Ingber et al. [11]

11 nested case-control studies

0.90
(0.75-1.08)

 

Lopez-Cervantes et al. [12]

9 nested case-control studies

0.91
(0.74-1.12)

 

Zhang et al. [13]

9 nested case-control studies

 

1.00
(0.85-1.25)

NS = No statistically significant increase or decrease in risk 

† When results were examined by hormone receptor status, there was no increase or decrease in risk for either hormone receptor-positive or hormone receptor negative breast cancers.

References

  1. Gammon MD, Wolff MS, Neugut AI, et al. Environmental toxins and breast cancer on Long Island. II. Organochlorine compound levels in blood. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 11(8):686-97, 2002.
  2. Millikan R, De Voto E, Duell EJ, et al. Dichlorophenyldichloroethene, polychlorinated biphenyls, and breast cancer among African-American and white women in North Carolina. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 9:1233-1240, 2000. 
  3. Raaschou-Nielsen O, Pavuk M, LeBlanc A, et al. Adipose organochlorine concentrations and risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal Danish women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 14(1):67-74, 2005.
  4. Laden F, Hankinson SE, Wolff MS, et al. Plasma organochlorine levels and the risk of breast cancer: an extended follow-up in the Nurses’ Health Study. Int J Cancer. 91(4):568-74, 2001.
  5. Helzlsouer KJ, Alberg AJ, Huang HY, et al. Serum concentrations of organochlorine compounds and the subsequent development of breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 8(6):525-32, 1999.
  6. Hoyer AP, Grandjean P, Jorgensen T, et al. Organochlorine exposure and risk of breast cancer. Lancet. 352(9143):1816-20, 1998.
  7. Hoyer AP, Jorgensen T, Rank F, and Grandjean P. Organochlorine exposures influence on breast cancer risk and survival according to estrogen receptor status: a Danish cohort-nested case-control study. BMC Cancer. 1(1):8, 2001.
  8. Krieger N, Wolff MS, Hiatt RA, et al. Breast cancer and serum organochlorines: a prospective study among white, black, and Asian women. J Natl Cancer Inst. 86(8):589-99, 1994.
  9. Ward EM, Schulte P, Grajewski B, et al. Serum organochlorine levels and breast cancer: a nested case-control study of Norwegian women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 9(12):1357-67, 2000.
  10. Laden F, Collman G, Iwamoto K, et al. 1,1-Dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene and polychlorinated biphenyls and breast cancer: combined analysis of five U.S. studies. J Natl Cancer Inst. 93(10):768-76, 2001.
  11. Ingber SZ, Buser MC, Pohl HR, Abadin HG, Murray HE, Scinicariello F. DDT/DDE and breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 67(3):421-33, 2013.
  12. Lopez-Cervantes M, Torres-Sanchez L, Tobias A, Lopez-Carrillo L. Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane burden and breast cancer risk: a meta-analysis of the epidemiologic evidence. Environ Health Perspect. 112(2):207-14, 2004.
  13. Zhang J, Huang Y, Wang X, Lin K, Wu K. Environmental polychlorinated biphenyl exposure and breast cancer risk: a meta-analysis of observational studies. PLoS One. 10(11):e0142513, 2015.  

TOOLS & RESOURCES

Give for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research

Donate Now

Everything you do makes a difference

Discover the ways you can help Get Involved