Environment and Breast Cancer: Science Review

Evidence From Humans
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Potential exposure to PCBs, DDT, and PBDEs from sport-caught fish consumption in relation to breast cancer risk in Wisconsin
McElroy, J. A., Kanarek, M. S., Trentham-Dietz, A., Robert, S. A., Hampton, J. M., Newcomb, P. A., Anderson, H. A., Remington, P. L. Environ Health Perspect. 2004. 112:2, 156-62.
Topic area
Environmental pollutant - Organochlorine, pesticide, PCB, DDE, DDT, PBDE
Study design
Population based case-control
Study Participants
Menopausal Status
The menopausal status of women included in this study is listed here.
Pre menopausal
Post menopausal
Number of Controls
Controls: 1301
Participant selection: Inclusion and exclusion criteria
Criteria used to select participants in the study.
Cases were identified through the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System. Non-cancer controls were identified from lists of licensed drivers, and Medicare beneficiary files.
Exposures investigated
Exposure to potentially toxic chemicals was assessed through the surrogate of the quantity of sport-caught fish, or Great-lakes fish, consumed by the study participants.
How exposure was measured
Questionnaire, by telephone
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.
Age, family history of breast cancer, recent alcohol consumption, parity, age at first full-term pregnancy, lactation, age at menarche, weight at age 18, weight gain since age 18, education, age at menopause.
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
Multivariate logistic regression.
Strength of associations reported
No elevated breast cancer ORs were seen for fish consumption among women overall.

A significant increase was seen for sport-caught fish consumption, but only for premenopausal women aged <40, with some evidence of a trend of decreasing ORs with increasing age.

However, Great lakes fish consumption was only significantly associated with breast cancer risk among premenopausal women aged over 50.
In Wisconsin, consumption of Great Lakes fish is an important source of exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and other halogenated hydrocarbons, all of which may act as potential risk factors for breast cancer. We examined the association between sport-caught fish consumption and breast cancer incidence as part of an ongoing population-based case-control study. We identified breast cancer cases 20-69 years of age who were diagnosed in 1998-2000 (n = 1,481) from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System. Female controls of similar age were randomly selected from population lists (n = 1,301). Information about all sport-caught (Great Lakes and other lakes) fish consumption and breast cancer risk factors was obtained through telephone interviews. After adjustment for known and suspected risk factors, the relative risk of breast cancer for women who had recently consumed sport-caught fish was similar to women who had never eaten sport-caught fish [relative risk (RR) = 1.00; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.86-1.17]. Frequency of consumption and location of sport-caught fish were not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Recent consumption of Great Lakes fish was not associated with postmenopausal breast cancer (RR = 0.78; 95% CI, 0.57-1.07), whereas risk associated with premenopausal breast cancer was elevated (RR = 1.70; 95% CI, 1.16-2.50). In this study we found no overall association between recent consumption of sport-caught fish and breast cancer, although there may be an increased breast cancer risk for subgroups of women who are young and/or premenopausal.
Author address
University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center, Madison, 53726, USA. jamcelroy@wisc.edu