Exposure to long-term source-specific transportation noise and incident breast cancer: A pooled study of eight Nordic cohorts

Environ Int. 2023 Aug:178:108108. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2023.108108. Epub 2023 Jul 22.


Background: Environmental noise is an important environmental exposure that can affect health. An association between transportation noise and breast cancer incidence has been suggested, although current evidence is limited. We investigated the pooled association between long-term exposure to transportation noise and breast cancer incidence.

Methods: Pooled data from eight Nordic cohorts provided a study population of 111,492 women. Road, railway, and aircraft noise were modelled at residential addresses. Breast cancer incidence (all, estrogen receptor (ER) positive, and ER negative) was derived from cancer registries. Hazard ratios (HR) were estimated using Cox Proportional Hazards Models, adjusting main models for sociodemographic and lifestyle variables together with long-term exposure to air pollution.

Results: A total of 93,859 women were included in the analyses, of whom 5,875 developed breast cancer. The median (5th-95th percentile) 5-year residential road traffic noise was 54.8 (40.0-67.8) dB Lden, and among those exposed, the median railway noise was 51.0 (41.2-65.8) dB Lden. We observed a pooled HR for breast cancer (95 % confidence interval (CI)) of 1.03 (0.99-1.06) per 10 dB increase in 5-year mean exposure to road traffic noise, and 1.03 (95 % CI: 0.96-1.11) for railway noise, after adjustment for lifestyle and sociodemographic covariates. HRs remained unchanged in analyses with further adjustment for PM2.5 and attenuated when adjusted for NO2 (HRs from 1.02 to 1.01), in analyses using the same sample. For aircraft noise, no association was observed. The associations did not vary by ER status for any noise source. In analyses using <60 dB as a cutoff, we found HRs of 1.08 (0.99-1.18) for road traffic and 1.19 (0.95-1.49) for railway noise.

Conclusions: We found weak associations between road and railway noise and breast cancer risk. More high-quality prospective studies are needed, particularly among those exposed to railway and aircraft noise before conclusions regarding noise as a risk factor for breast cancer can be made.

Keywords: Air pollution; Aircraft noise; Breast cancer; Estrogen receptor; Noise; Railway noise; Traffic; Traffic noise.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Noise, Transportation* / adverse effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors