This study investigated the potential association between organochlorine exposure and breast cancer using stored sera collected from 1973 through 1991 from the Janus Serum Bank in Norway. Breast cancer cases were ascertained prospectively from among 25,431 female serum bank donors. A total of 150 controls were matched to cases by birth dates and dates of sample collection. One g of serum per subject was analyzed for a total of 71 organochlorine compounds. For 6 pesticides [B-hexachlorocyclohexane, heptachlor epoxide, oxychlordane, trans-nonachlor, p, p'-1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene, and p, p'-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-1,1,1-trichloroethane] and 26 individual polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners there were >90% of samples over the limit of detection. There was no evidence for higher mean serum levels among cases for any of these compounds, nor any trend of increasing risk associated with higher quartiles of exposure. The remaining compounds (including dieldrin) were analyzed with respect to the proportion of cancer cases and controls having detectable levels; no positive associations were noted in these analyses. Our study did not confirm the recent findings of a Danish study of increased concentrations of dieldrin in the serum of breast cancer cases. The evidence to date on the association between serum organochlorines is not entirely consistent, but there is accumulating evidence that serum levels of p, p'-1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene and total PCBs are not important predictors for breast cancer in the general population. Studies to date have not been able to evaluate whether exposure to highly estrogenic, short-lived PCB congeners increases breast cancer risk, nor have they fully evaluated the risk associated with organochlorine exposure in susceptible subgroups or at levels above general population exposure, including women with occupational exposure.
NIOSH MS R-13, Robert A. Taft Laboratory, 4676 Columbia Park, Cincinnati, OH 45226