Alkylphenolic compounds and risk of breast and prostate cancer in the MCC-Spain study

Environ Int. 2019 Jan:122:389-399. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2018.12.007. Epub 2018 Dec 13.


Background: Alkylphenolic compounds are chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties that have been widely used in industry with important changes in their usage over time. Few epidemiologic studies have evaluated the effect of alkylphenolic compounds on human health.

Objectives: We investigated whether occupational exposure to alkylphenolic compounds is associated with breast and prostate cancer.

Methods: We carried out a population-based case-control study including 1513 incident cases of breast cancer, 1095 of prostate cancer, and 3055 controls, frequency matched by sex, age and region. Occupational exposure to alkylphenolic compounds was estimated using a recently developed job-exposure matrix, which considered different scenarios of exposure and different subtypes of alkylphenolic compounds.

Results: History of occupational exposure to alkylphenolic compounds was modestly associated with breast cancer (OR = 1.23; 95% CI = 1.01-1.48). Within the different scenarios, the occupational use of domestic tensioactives was positively associated with breast cancer (OR = 1.28; 95% CI = 1.02-1.60), while occupational exposure in other scenarios showed mostly a suggestion of a similar positive associations. Exposure to nonylphenol ethoxylates was positively associated with breast cancer (OR = 1.21; 95% CI = 1.00-1.47), while exposure to other compounds was uncommon. In general, we did not observe associations between alkylphenolic compounds and prostate cancer, except for a positive association among men occupationally exposed to cosmetic, hair and personal hygiene products.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest a modest association between breast cancer risk and occupational exposure to alkylphenolic compounds, and no associations between these compounds and prostate cancer risk. These findings warrant further corroboration in other studies.

Keywords: Alkylphenolic compounds; Alkylphenols; Breast cancer; Job-exposure matrix; Occupational exposure; Prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Industry
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Phenols / toxicity*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Phenols