Organochlorine exposure and risk of breast cancer

Lancet. 1998 Dec 5;352(9143):1816-20. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(98)04504-8.


Background: Some organochlorine compounds may have weak oestrogenic effects and are, therefore, suspected of increasing the risk of breast cancer. We assessed prospectively the risk of breast cancer in relation to serum concentrations of several organochlorine compounds.

Methods: In 1976, serum samples from 7712 women were obtained from participants in the Copenhagen City Heart Study as part of physical examinations and interviews about lifestyle factors. During 17 years of follow-up, 268 women developed invasive breast cancer. Each woman with breast cancer was matched with two breast-cancer-free women from the remaining cohort. We analysed in 1996-97 the serum samples from 240 women with breast cancer and 477 controls.

Findings: Dieldrin was associated with a significantly increased dose-related risk of breast cancer (adjusted odds ratio 2.05 [95% CI 1.17-3.57], p for trend 0.01). Beta-hexachlorocyclohexane increased risk slightly but not significantly (p for trend 0.24). There was no overall association between risk of breast cancer and p,p'-dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or metabolites or for polychlorinated biphenyls. Exclusion of women with breast cancer diagnosed within 5 years of blood sampling strengthened the result for dieldrin, but did not affect the other results.

Interpretation: These findings support the hypothesis that exposure to xeno-oestrogens may increase the risk of breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark
  • Dieldrin / adverse effects
  • Dieldrin / blood
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Estrogens / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / adverse effects*
  • Insecticides / blood*
  • Life Style
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors


  • Estrogens
  • Insecticides
  • Lipids
  • Dieldrin