Organochlorine compounds in relation to breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and endometriosis: an assessment of the biological and epidemiological evidence

Crit Rev Toxicol. 1995;25(6):463-531. doi: 10.3109/10408449509017924.


There is an increasing public and scientific concern that certain chlorinated compounds, recognized as environmental pollutants, may cause estrogen-related neoplastic disease in humans. The main hypothesis has been that certain organochlorines, through their estrogenic actions, might cause breast cancer. From experimental studies, both in vitro and in vivo, there is evidence that certain organochlorine compounds may cause estrogenic effects, whereas others may cause antiestrogenic effects. In limited studies, some of these compounds in high doses have also been shown to increase and reduce the frequency of estrogen-related tumors in animals. The epidemiological findings regarding the association between organochlorines and breast cancer are inconclusive. However, the largest and best designed study has been interpreted as negative with respect to DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) in relation to breast cancer. Associations between organochlorine exposure and endometrial cancer or endometriosis have even more limited empirical basis. The hypothesis that human exposure to environmental levels or organochlorines would favor an estrogenic overactivity leading to an increase in estrogen-dependent formation of mammary or endometrial tumors is not supported by the existing in vitro, animal and epidemiological evidence. It can, however, not be conclusively rejected on the basis of available data.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity
  • Estrogen Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / adverse effects*
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / toxicity
  • Insecticides / adverse effects*
  • Insecticides / toxicity
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / adverse effects


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Insecticides
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins