Background: To date, few epidemiologic studies have examined the relationship between environmental PCDD/F exposure and breast cancer in human populations. Dioxin emissions from municipal solid waste incinerators (MSWIs) are one of the major sources of environmental dioxins and are therefore an exposure source of public concern. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between dioxins emitted from a polluting MSWI and invasive breast cancer risk among women residing in the area under direct influence of the facility.
Methods: We compared 434 incident cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed between 1996 and 2002, and 2170 controls randomly selected from the 1999 population census. A validated dispersion model was used as a proxy for dioxin exposure, yielding four exposure categories. The latter were linked to individual places of residence, using Geographic Information System technology.
Results: The age distribution at diagnosis for all cases combined showed a bimodal pattern with incidence peaks near 50 and 70 years old. This prompted us to run models separately for women aged 20-59 years, and women aged 60 years or older. Among women younger than 60 years old, no increased or decreased risk was found for any dioxin exposure category. Conversely, women over 60 years old living in the highest exposed zone were 0.31 time less likely (95% confidence interval, 0.08-0.89) to develop invasive breast cancer.
Conclusion: Before speculating that this decreased risk reflects a dioxin anti-estrogenic activity with greater effect on late-onset acquired breast cancer, some residual confounding must be envisaged.