Risk reduction for DDT toxicity and carcinogenesis through dietary modification

J R Soc Promot Health. 2001 Jun;121(2):107-13. doi: 10.1177/146642400112100212.


Organochlorine pesticides, including dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), are an environmental hazard due to their persistent nature and potential health effects. DDT and 1,1,dichloro-2,2,bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene (DDE) are lipid-soluble pesticides which accumulate in fatty tissues and are, therefore, more present in fat-containing foods such as meat, fish, milk, cheese and oil than in fruit, vegetables and grain. Scientists have for some time been concerned about the human exposure to DDT and the potential risk of breast cancer due to its oestrogenic activity. The introduction of foods containing chemopreventive agents in the diet could inhibit the oestrogenic effects of DDT and the risk of developing cancer. Phytooestrogens are weak oestrogens found in certain plants such as soybean. They compete with DDT for oestrogen receptors and inhibit the oestrogenic effect of DDT on cultured human breast (MCF) cells. Curcumin, a spice widely used in Indian dishes, has anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. It also inhibits the oestrogenic effects of DDT and is synergistic with phytooestrogens. Indole-3-carbinol, a compound naturally found in cruciferous vegetables, stimulates oestrogen metabolism towards 2-hydroxyoestrone which reduces the oestrogenic response in MCF cells and the risk of breast cancer. Since DDT is lipid soluble and accumulates in adipose tissue it could have a role in lipid metabolism. Would a low fat diet reduce DDT bioaccumulation? A reduction in calories can decrease oestrogen levels and possibly reduce the risk of breast cancer. A dietary modification with the introduction of soy products, curcumin, cruciferous vegetables and low fat could be beneficial in reducing the risk of developing cancer and possibly the effects of DDT.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Carcinogens / adverse effects
  • DDT / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Fats
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Contamination
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / adverse effects*
  • Isoflavones*
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Preparations
  • United Kingdom


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Carcinogens
  • Dietary Fats
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Insecticides
  • Isoflavones
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Preparations
  • DDT