Dependence of cancer risk from environmental exposures on underlying genetic susceptibility: an illustration with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and breast cancer

Br J Cancer. 2017 Apr 25;116(9):1229-1233. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2017.81. Epub 2017 Mar 28.


Background: Most studies of environmental risk factors and breast cancer are conducted using average risk cohorts.

Methods: We examined the association between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)-albumin adducts in bloods from baseline and breast cancer risk in a prospective nested case-control study (New York site of the BCFR, 80 cases and 156 controls). We estimated the 10-year absolute breast cancer risk by a risk model that uses pedigree information (BOADICEA) and evaluated whether the increased risk from PAH differed by absolute risk.

Results: Women with detectable levels of PAH had a twofold association with breast cancer risk (odds ratio (OR)=2.04; 95% CI=1.06-3.93) relative to women with non-detectable levels. The association increased with higher levels of PAH (⩾median) and by a higher level of absolute breast cancer risk (10-year risk ⩾3.4%: OR=4.09, 95% CI=1.38-12.13).

Conclusions: These results support that family-based cohorts can be an efficient way to examine gene-environment interactions.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA Adducts / blood*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / blood
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Risk Factors
  • Serum Albumin / genetics
  • Smoking


  • DNA Adducts
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Serum Albumin
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons-DNA adduct