Perfluorooctanoic acid exposure and cancer outcomes in a contaminated community: a geographic analysis

Environ Health Perspect. 2013 Mar;121(3):318-23. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1205829. Epub 2013 Jan 8.


Background: Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been linked to cancer in occupational mortality studies and animal toxicologic research.

Objective: We investigated the relationship between PFOA exposure and cancer among residents living near the DuPont Teflon-manufacturing plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia (WV).

Methods: Our analyses included incident cases of 18 cancers diagnosed from 1996 through 2005 in five Ohio (OH) counties and eight WV counties. For analyses of each cancer outcome, controls comprised all other cancers in the study data set except kidney, pancreatic, testicular, and liver cancers, which have been associated with PFOA in animal or human studies. We applied logistic regression models to individual-level data to calculate adjusted odds ratios (AORs) and confidence intervals (CIs). For the combined analysis of OH and WV data, the exposure of interest was resident water district. Within OH, geocoded addresses were integrated with a PFOA exposure model to examine the relationship between cancer odds and categories of estimated PFOA serum.

Results: Our final data set included 7,869 OH cases and 17,238 WV cases. There was a positive association between kidney cancer and the very high and high serum exposure categories [AOR = 2.0 (95% CI: 1.0, 3.9) n = 9 and 2.0 (95% CI: 1.3, 3.2) n = 22, respectively] and a null association with the other exposure categories compared with the unexposed. The largest AOR was for testicular cancer with the very high exposure category [2.8 (95% CI: 0.8, 9.2) n = 6], but there was an inverse association with the lower exposure groups, and all estimates were imprecise because of small case numbers.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that higher PFOA serum levels may be associated with testicular, kidney, prostate, and ovarian cancers and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Strengths of this study include near-complete case ascertainment for state residents and well-characterized contrasts in predicted PFOA serum levels from six contaminated water supplies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caprylates / toxicity*
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity*
  • Geography*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Risk Assessment
  • West Virginia


  • Caprylates
  • Carcinogens
  • Fluorocarbons
  • perfluorooctanoic acid