Exposure to multiple sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and breast cancer incidence

Environ Int. Apr-May 2016;89-90:185-92. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2016.02.009. Epub 2016 Feb 13.


Background: Despite studies having consistently linked exposure to single-source polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to breast cancer, it is unclear whether single sources or specific groups of PAH sources should be targeted for breast cancer risk reduction.

Objectives: This study considers the impact on breast cancer incidence from multiple PAH exposure sources in a single model, which better reflects exposure to these complex mixtures.

Methods: In a population-based case-control study conducted on Long Island, New York (N=1508 breast cancer cases/1556 controls), a Bayesian hierarchical regression approach was used to estimate adjusted posterior means and credible intervals (CrI) for the adjusted odds ratios (ORs) for PAH exposure sources, considered singly and as groups: active smoking; residential environmental tobacco smoke (ETS); indoor and outdoor air pollution; and grilled/smoked meat intake.

Results: Most women were exposed to PAHs from multiple sources, and the most common included active/passive smoking and grilled/smoked food intake. In multiple-PAH source models, breast cancer incidence was associated with residential ETS from a spouse (OR=1.20, 95%CrI=1.03, 1.40) and synthetic firelog burning (OR=1.29, 95%CrI=1.06, 1.57); these estimates are similar, but slightly attenuated, to those from single-source models. Additionally when we considered PAH exposure groups, the most pronounced significant associations included total indoor sources (active smoking, ETS from spouse, grilled/smoked meat intake, stove/fireplace use, OR=1.45, 95%CrI=1.02, 2.04).

Conclusions: Groups of PAH sources, particularly indoor sources, were associated with a 30-50% increase in breast cancer incidence. PAH exposure is ubiquitous and a potentially modifiable breast cancer risk factor.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Environmental tobacco smoke; Grilled meat; Indoor air; Outdoor air; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Smoking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cooking
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Housing / standards
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis


  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution