Persistent Organic Pollutants and Obesity: Are They Potential Mechanisms for Breast Cancer Promotion?

Endocr Relat Cancer. 2015 Apr;22(2):R69-86. doi: 10.1530/ERC-14-0411. Epub 2015 Jan 26.


Dietary ingestion of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is correlated with the development of obesity. Obesity alters metabolism, induces an inflammatory tissue microenvironment, and is also linked to diabetes and breast cancer risk/promotion of the disease. However, no direct evidence exists with regard to the correlation among all three of these factors (POPs, obesity, and breast cancer). Herein, we present results from current correlative studies indicating a causal link between POP exposure through diet and their bioaccumulation in adipose tissue that promotes the development of obesity and ultimately influences breast cancer development and/or progression. Furthermore, as endocrine disruptors, POPs could interfere with hormonally responsive tissue functions causing dysregulation of hormone signaling and cell function. This review highlights the critical need for advanced in vitro and in vivo model systems to elucidate the complex relationship among obesity, POPs, and breast cancer, and, more importantly, to delineate their multifaceted molecular, cellular, and biochemical mechanisms. Comprehensive in vitro and in vivo studies directly testing the observed correlations as well as detailing their molecular mechanisms are vital to cancer research and, ultimately, public health.

Keywords: breast cancer; metabolism; obesity; persistent organic pollutants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Diet
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism*


  • Environmental Pollutants