Dioxin/polychlorinated biphenyl body burden, diabetes and endometriosis: findings in a population-based study in Belgium

Biomarkers. 2003 Nov-Dec;8(6):529-34. doi: 10.1080/1354750032000158420.


Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent organic pollutants widely distributed in the food chain, which is the main source of human exposure. Their effects on human health at background exposure levels are still poorly understood. Recent epidemiological evidence suggests a possible association between these pollutants and diabetes. We report here the results of a population-based study in Belgium on 257 (142 women and 115 men) environmentally exposed subjects, including 10 cases of endometriosis and nine cases of diabetes. Seventeen 2,3,7,8-polychlorinated dibenzodioxins/dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs or dioxins), four coplanar PCBs (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry [IUPAC] nos 77, 81, 126 and 169) and 12 PCB markers (IUPAC nos 3, 8, 28, 52, 101, 118, 138, 153, 180, 194, 206 and 209) were quantified in serum fat from fasting blood samples in order to estimate the body burden of these pollutants. Whilst no difference was found between women with endometriosis and their controls, diabetic patients had significantly increased serum levels of dioxins, coplanar PCBs and the 12 PCB markers. After adjustment for age and other covariates, serum total toxic equivalent activity (sum of PCDD/Fs and coplanar PCBs) and 12 PCB marker concentrations in diabetics were 62% (p = 0.0005) and 39% (p = 0.0067) higher, respectively, than in controls. The risk of diabetes was significantly increased in subjects in the top decile for adjusted concentrations of dioxins (odds ratio 5.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.18-21.7), coplanar PCBs (odds ratio 13.3, 95% CI 3.31-53.2) or 12 PCB markers (odds ratio 7.6, 95% CI 1.58-36.3). These findings warrant further studies to assess the significance of the associations between diabetes and environmental exposure to polychlorinated pollutants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / chemically induced*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology
  • Diet
  • Dioxins / adverse effects*
  • Endometriosis / blood
  • Endometriosis / chemically induced*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Dioxins
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls