Estrogens and organochlorine xenoestrogens and breast cancer risk

Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2003;16(2):113-24.


Breast cancer is responsible for considerable morbidity and the majority of female deaths in industrialized countries. In the etiology of breast cancer many endogenous and exogenous risk factors have been discussed. It is estimated that about 40% of all cancers in women are hormonally mediated. Both estrogens and androgens play critical roles in the development of breast cancer, which has been confirmed by numerous epidemiologic data on the levels of serum and urine hormons in populations at low and high risk, as well as by case-control and cohort studies. Estrogen carcinogenesis is attributed to receptor-mediated growth and proliferation of breast epithelial cells and to DNA impairment caused by activated estrogen metabolites, e.g., catechol estrogens and free radicals. In the last decade, the organochlorine chemicals, which include pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl congeners and other representatives of the dioxin family, have been regarded as xenoestrogens. These chemicals are capable of modulating hormonally regulated processes and inducing changes in growth factors that may be responsible for carcinogenic effect. Many case-control studies have shown the distinct association between breast adipose tissue concentrations of several organochlorine xenoestrogens and breast cancer risk. Also in some studies, the women with breast cancer had higher organochlorine levels in serum as compared with controls.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Estradiol / adverse effects
  • Estradiol / genetics
  • Estradiol / pharmacokinetics
  • Estrogens / adverse effects*
  • Estrogens / genetics
  • Estrogens / pharmacokinetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated*
  • Insecticides / pharmacokinetics
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Postmenopause
  • Receptors, Estrogen / drug effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Xenobiotics / toxicity


  • Estrogens
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Insecticides
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Xenobiotics
  • Estradiol