Exposure to polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners measured shortly after giving birth and subsequent risk of maternal breast cancer before age 50

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Nov;136(1):267-75. doi: 10.1007/s10549-012-2257-4. Epub 2012 Sep 28.


Discrete windows of susceptibility to toxicants have been identified for the breast, including in utero, puberty, pregnancy, and postpartum. We tested the hypothesis that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) measured during the early postpartum predict increased risk of maternal breast cancer diagnosed before age 50. We analyzed archived early postpartum serum samples collected from 1959 to 1967, an average of 17 years before diagnosis (mean diagnosis age 43 years) for 16 PCB congeners in a nested case-control study in the Child Health and Development Studies cohort (N = 112 cases matched to controls on birth year). We used conditional logistic regression to adjust for lipids, race, year, lactation, and body mass. We observed strong breast cancer associations with three congeners. PCB 167 was associated with a lower risk (odds ratio (OR), 75th vs. 25th percentile = 0.2, 95 % confidence interval (95 % CI) 0.1, 0.8) as was PCB 187 (OR, 75th vs. 25th percentile = 0.4, 95 % CI 0.1, 1.1). In contrast, PCB 203 was associated with a sixfold increased risk (OR, 75th vs. 25th percentile = 6.3, 95 % CI 1.9, 21.7). The net association of PCB exposure, estimated by a post-hoc score, was nearly a threefold increase in risk (OR, 75th vs. 25th percentile = 2.8, 95 % CI 1.1, 7.1) among women with a higher proportion of PCB 203 in relation to the sum of PCBs 167 and 187. Postpartum PCB exposure likely also represents pregnancy exposure, and may predict increased risk for early breast cancer depending on the mixture that represents internal dose. It remains unclear whether individual differences in exposure, response to exposure, or both explain risk patterns observed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Breast Neoplasms* / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms* / chemically induced
  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls* / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls* / chemistry
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls* / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic / chemically induced*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Risk Factors


  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls