Estimated dietary dioxin exposure and breast cancer risk among women from the French E3N prospective cohort

Breast Cancer Res. 2015 Mar 17:17:39. doi: 10.1186/s13058-015-0536-9.


Introduction: Dioxins are environmental and persistent pollutants mostly emitted from combustion facilities (e.g. waste incinerators, metal and cement industries). Known to be endocrine disrupting chemicals, dioxins are suspected to increase breast cancer (BC) risk. Although diet is considered the primary source of dioxin exposure, no previous study has been published on dietary dioxin exposure in relation to BC risk. We aimed to assess dietary dioxin exposure among women from the E3N cohort and estimate BC risk associated with this exposure.

Methods: The study included 63,830 women from the E3N cohort who completed a diet history questionnaire (DHQ) in 1993 and were followed until 2008. Dietary dioxin exposure was estimated by combining consumption data from the E3N DHQ and food dioxin contamination data from a French national monitoring program. Hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated by Cox models adjusted for BC risk factors.

Results: Mean dietary dioxin exposure was estimated at 1.3 ± 0.4 pg/kg body weight (BW)/day. A 0.4 pg/kg BW/d increase in dioxin intake was not associated with overall BC risk (HR = 1.00; 95% CI: 0.96, 1.05). A significant decrease in risk of estrogen receptor negative (ER-)/progesterone receptor negative (PR-) tumors was observed among post-menopausal women in the upper quartile of estimated dioxin intake (HR for Q4 vs. Q1: 0.65; 95% CI: 0.45, 0.96; P for trend across quartiles = 0.0463).

Conclusions: Overall, no association between estimated dietary dioxin exposure and BC risk was found among E3N women. Further studies should include both dietary and environmental exposures to determine whether low-dose dioxin exposure is associated with BC risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Dioxins / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food Contamination
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dioxins