Environment and Breast Cancer: Science Review

Evidence From Humans
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Abundance and distribution of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in breast tissue
Ellsworth, R. E., Mamula, K. A., Costantino, N. S., Deyarmin, B., Kostyniak, P. J., Chi, L. H., Shriver, C. D., Ellsworth, D. L. Environ Res. 2015. 138, 291-7.
Topic area
Environmental pollutant - PCBs
Study design
Funding agency
Department of Defense
Study Participants
Menopausal Status
The menopausal status of women included in this study is listed here.
No analyses by menopausal status
Participant selection: Inclusion and exclusion criteria
Criteria used to select participants in the study.
Participants were recruited from women in the Clinical Breast Care Project, all of whom were over 18 years old in 2001 and patients of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or Windber Medical Center with evidence of possible disease. Women seeking prophylactic mastectomy were also eligible. Breast stroma samples were collected from women undergoing mastectomy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center between December 2003 and March 2008.
Comment about participation selection
Four patients underwent prophylactic mastectomy and one had atypical hyperplasia of the breast.
Exposure Investigated
Exposures investigated
Breast tissue was collected at time of surgery and measured for 97 PCB congeners, which were grouped into estrogenic, anti-estrogenic with dioxin-like or limited dioxin-like activity, and CYP-inducers.
Exposure assessment comment
94 of 97 congeners were detected in samples.
Breast cancer outcome investigated
Primary incident breast cancer
Confounders considered
Other breast cancer risk factors, such as family history, age at first birth, and hormone replacement therapy use, that were taken into account in the study.
Genetic characterization included
If the study analyzed relationships between environmental factors and inherited genetic variations, this field will be marked “Yes.” “No”, if not.
Yes, HER-2/neu gene
Strength of associations reported
Median PCB levels differed by groupings, with CYP inducing PCBs at the highest concentration in breast tissue, followed by anti-estrogenic PCBs, followed by estrogenic PCBs.

ER/HER2 status:
ER+/HR2+ (4 cases) 321.2 (median ng/g PCB) 0.557 (p-value)
ER+/HR2- 396.8 (median ng/g PCB)
ER-/HR2+ (9 cases) 281.7 (median ng/g PCB)
ER-/HR2- (3 cases) 318.2 (median ng/g PCB)

No risk estimates were reported.
Author address
Murtha Cancer Center, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD, USA. Clinical Breast Care Project, Windber Research Institute, Windber, PA, USA. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo,
Reviewers Comments
No significant associations between total PCB concentration and tumor stage, ER/HER2 status, tumor grade, tumor size, lymph node status, or patient status (alive with disease, died from other causes, died from disease, no evidence of disease) were reported.