Use of phthalate-containing prescription drugs and the risk of gastric cancer: a Danish nationwide case-control study

Acta Oncol. 2019 Jun;58(6):852-858. doi: 10.1080/0284186X.2019.1585941. Epub 2019 Mar 18.


Background: Phthalates are used as excipients in some drug products, and up to a 50-fold increased urinary excretion of phthalate metabolites compared to non-users has been demonstrated in users of such products. In vitro studies have demonstrated that phthalates stimulate mechanisms involved in gastric cancer development. We therefore examined the association between cumulative phthalate exposure from drug products and the risk of gastric adenocarcinomas. Methods: Using the Danish Cancer Registry, we identified all patients with incident gastric adenocarcinoma from 2008 to 2015 (n = 1525). Cancer cases were matched to 10 controls. Linking information retrieved from nationwide Danish registries, we determined individual cumulative phthalate exposure to the ortho-phthalates diethyl phthalate (DEP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and enteric phthalate polymers from prescription drugs. The association between cumulative phthalate exposure and gastric adenocarcinoma was estimated using conditional logistic regression, adjusting for socioeconomical status and drugs or comorbidities known or suspected to modify the risk of gastric adenocarcinoma. Results: No association was seen for the risk of gastric adenocarcinomas among individuals with high cumulative exposure to ortho-phthalates (exceeding 500 mg) (ORadj 1.22, 95% CI: 0.84-1.77). Likewise, no associations were observed individually for DEP (ORadj 1.06 95% CI: 0.63-1.76) or DBP (ORadj 1.32 95% CI: 0.78-2.23). Cumulative exposure to enteric phthalate polymers exceeding 10,000 mg, did not reveal an association with gastric adenocarcinoma (ORadj 0.79, 95% CI: 0.54-1.16) and no association was seen for individual compounds. Additionally, no dose-response pattern was observed across exposure strata (p = .39, test for trend). Conclusion: We did not find an increased risk of gastric adenocarcinoma among Danish users of phthalate-containing drug products. Our study is limited by a low number of cases exposed to high cumulative doses of phthalates.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Drug Contamination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Excipients / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phthalic Acids / adverse effects*
  • Prescription Drugs / pharmacology*
  • Prognosis
  • Stomach Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Stomach Neoplasms / epidemiology*


  • Excipients
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Prescription Drugs
  • diethyl phthalate