Polybrominated diphenyl ethers and thyroid cancer risk in the Prostate, Colorectal, Lung, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial cohort

Am J Epidemiol. 2015 Jun 1;181(11):883-8. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu358. Epub 2015 May 4.


Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) alter thyroid hormone homeostasis, but their relationship with thyroid cancer is unknown. To investigate whether serum concentrations of PBDE were associated with thyroid cancer, we conducted a nested, case-control study in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, a large multicenter clinical trial in the United States. Cases with thyroid cancer (n = 104) were recruited from 1992 to 2001 and diagnosed through 2009, and controls (n = 208) were individually matched (2:1) to cases by race, sex, birth date (within 1 year), center, and blood collection date (within 15 days). We used gas chromatography isotope dilution high-resolution mass spectrometry to measure 10 tri- to heptabrominated diphenyl eithers in serum samples. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated using conditional logistic regression for lipid-adjusted PBDE levels detected in more than 50% of controls and for the sum of these BDEs (∑PBDEs). We observed no significant differences between cases and controls in lipid-adjusted concentrations of ∑PBDEs (for cases, median = 12.8 ng/g lipid (interquartile range, 6.2-42.1); for controls, median = 19.4 ng/g lipid (interquartile range, 7.6-50.2)) or for individual congeners. Increasing quartiles of ∑PBDEs and 4 BDE congeners were not associated with risk of thyroid cancer (for the fourth vs. first quartile of ∑PBDEs, adjusted odd ratio = 0.62, 95% confidence interval: 0.29, 1.30; P for trend = 0.56). Our study does not support an association between exposure to PBDEs and thyroid cancer.

Keywords: brominated diphenyl ethers; flame retardants; thyroid cancer risk.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Female
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Middle Aged
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / blood*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • United States


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls