In vitro evaluation of oestrogenic/androgenic activity of the serum organochlorine pesticide mixtures previously described in a breast cancer case-control study

Sci Total Environ. 2015 Dec 15:537:197-202. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.08.016. Epub 2015 Aug 15.


Some organochlorine pesticides (OCs) have been individually linked to breast cancer (BC) because they exert oestrogenic effects on mammary cells. However, humans are environmentally exposed to more or less complex mixtures of these organochlorines, and the biological effects of these mixtures must be elucidated. In this work we evaluated the in vitro effects exerted on human BC cells by the OC mixtures that were most frequently detected in two groups of women who participated in a BC case-control study developed in Spain: healthy women and women diagnosed with BC. The cytotoxicity, oestrogenicity, and androgenicity of the most prevalent OC mixtures found in healthy women (H-mixture) and in BC patients (BC-mixture) were tested at concentrations that resembled those found in the serum of the evaluated women. Our results showed that both OC mixtures presented a similar oestrogenic activity and effect on cell viability, but BC-mixture showed an additional anti-androgenic effect. These results indicate that although the proliferative effect exerted by these mixtures on human breast cells seems to depend mainly on their oestrogenic action, the BC-mixture might additionally induce cell proliferation due to its anti-androgenic activity, therefore increasing the carcinogenic potential of this mixture. The findings of this study demonstrate that subtle variations in the composition of a mixture may induce relevant changes in its biological action.

Keywords: Cyclodienes; DDT; Endocrine disruption; Human breast cancer cells; POPs; Pesticide mixtures.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Androgens / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Estrogens
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood*
  • Pesticides / blood*
  • Spain


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticides