Background: It has previously been reported that the environmental contaminants perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are linked to atherosclerosis in cross-sectional studies. Since cross-sectional studies could be subject to reverse causation, the purpose of this study was to analyze if the longitudinal changes in PFASs during a 10-year follow-up were related to the change in carotid artery intima-media thickness (IMT, ultrasound) during the same period.
Methods: In the Prospective Investigation of the Vasculature in Uppsala Seniors (PIVUS) study, 1016 individuals were investigated at age 70; 826 of them were reinvestigated at age 75 and 602 at age 80 years. Eight different PFASs were measured in plasma by ultra-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS), and IMT was measured at all three time points. Random-effects mixed regression models were used to examine the associations over time.
Results: IMT increased 0.058 mm during the 10-year period (p < 0.0001). Following adjustment for baseline values of PFASs (age 70) and sex, the changes in plasma levels of 6 of the 8 measured PFASs were significantly related to the change in IMT over the 10-year follow-up period in a positive fashion (p < 0.0062 using Bonferroni correction for 8 tests). Further adjustment for traditional cardiovascular (CV) risk factors (HDL and LDL cholesterol, smoking, systolic blood pressure, statin use, fasting glucose and serum triglycerides) affected these relationships only marginally.
Conclusion: The change in plasma levels of several PFASs during 10 years was positively related to increase in IMT seen during the same period, giving prospective evidence that PFASs might interfere with the atherosclerotic process.
Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Elderly; Epidemiology; IMT; Longitudinal; Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs).