Organochlorine compounds and estrogen-related cancers in women

Cancer Causes Control. 1995 Nov;6(6):551-66. doi: 10.1007/BF00054165.


The organochlorines, a diverse group of some 15,000 compounds, have been implicated increasingly as being harmful to humans. Some congeners of DDT and PCB elicit very weak estrogenic responses in animals, while the dioxin TCDD and related compounds have antiestrogenic properties. This review summarizes the evidence regarding whether certain organochlorine compounds, usually as persistent food-chain contaminants, increase the risk of breast and endometrial cancers through their estrogenic potential. In humans, neither ecologic data nor occupational studies provide clear support for an association between organochlorine exposure and the occurrence of these cancers. In our summary analysis of occupational exposure, the rate ratio of breast cancer for exposed cf unexposed women was 0.84 (95 percent confidence interval [CI] = 0.50-1.33) for PCBs and 1.08 (CI = 0.68-1.58) for TCDD. Similarly, effect estimates close to unity were found in summary analysis of breast cancer case-control studies regarding levels of DDE and PCB in adipose tissue or serum. In two recent nested case-control studies using stored specimens, the odds ratio per standard deviation increase in serum p,p'-DDE was 1.27 (CI = 0.95-1.69). Although estrogenic effects of certain organochlorine compounds should be easier to detect on the endometrium, we know of no analytic epidemiologic studies of endometrial cancer published to data. We conclude that available data do not indicate that organochlorines will affect the risk of these two cancers in any but the most unusual situation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Carcinogens / adverse effects
  • Carcinogens / analysis
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DDT / adverse effects
  • DDT / analysis
  • DDT / blood
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / adverse effects
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / analysis
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Estrogen Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Estrogens*
  • Female
  • Food Contamination
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / adverse effects*
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / analysis
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / blood


  • Carcinogens
  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Estrogens
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • DDT
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls