Environment and Breast Cancer: Science Review

Evidence From Humans
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Environmental dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or hexachlorobenzene exposure and breast cancer: is there a risk?
Charlier, C., Foidart, J. M., Pitance, F., Herman, P., Gaspard, U., Meurisse, M., Plomteux, G. Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine. 2004. 42:2, 222-7.
Topic area
Environmental pollutant - Pesticides, organochlorine, DDT, DDE, HCB, hexachl
Study design
Hospital based case-control
Funding agency
Not reported
Study Participants
Menopausal Status
The menopausal status of women included in this study is listed here.
Pre menopausal
Post menopausal
Number of Controls
Controls: 290
Participant selection: Inclusion and exclusion criteria
Criteria used to select participants in the study.
Cases were women attending a university hospital in Belgium, breast cancer status was evaluated at the time of surgery. Age matched controls were selected at random in a population of women consulting for routine systematic cervico-vaginal cytological screening at the same hospital.
Exposures investigated
Lipid-corrected serum concentrations of DDT, DDE, and HCB
Statistical Analysis
Ethnic groups with separate analysis
If this study provided a separate analysis by ethnic or racial group, the groups are listed here.
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.
Menopausal status, full-term pregnancies, lactation, use of HRT, and family history of breast cancer.
Genetic characterization included
If the study analyzed relationships between environmental factors and inherited genetic variations, this field will be marked “Yes.” “No”, if not.
Description of major analysis
Mann-Whitney U tests compared serum pesticide concentrations between cases and controls. Multiple logistic regression was used to measure the relationship between serum levels and breast cancer.
Strength of associations reported
Mean levels of p,p'-DDE and HCB were higher in cases than in controls:
DDE (lipid-corrected): 0.58 mcg/g (SD: 0.58) in cases vs. 0.31 mcg/g (SD: 0.35) in controls, p < 0.0001
OR = 2.21 (95% CI: 1.41 - 3.48)
HCB (lipid-corrected): 0.11 mcg/g (SD: 0.21) in cases vs. 0.03 mcg/g (SD: 0.17) in controls, p < 0.0001
OR = 4.99 (95% CI: 2.95 - 8.43)
DDT and HCB levels were not associated with ER status, lymph node presence, or bloom stage. Tumor size was correlated with HCB levels, but not DDE level.
Results Comments
p,p'-DDE was found in 76.2% of cases, and 71.1% of controls. HCB was found in 12.6% of cases, and 8.9% of controls.
Author address
Clinical Toxicology Laboratory, Sart Tilman University Hospital, University of Liege, Liege, Belgium. C.Chalier@chu.ulg.ac.be