Relative abundance of organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls in adipose tissue and serum of women

Stellman, Steven D.; Djordjevic, Mirjana V.; Muscat, Joshua E.; Gong, Lin; Bernstein, David; Citron, Marc L.; White, Agnès; Kemeny, Margaret; Busch, Erna; Nafziger, Anne N,

Some organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and PCBs are under investigation as possible risk factors for breast cancer because of their estrogenic properties and widespread presence in the environment. It is important to know whether adipose tissue used by some investigators and serum assays used by others can provide comparable information on body burden. Concentrations of seven OCPs or their breakdown products as well as 14 PCB congeners were measured in the adipose tissue and serum of 293 women enrolled as controls in a case-control study of environmental factors for breast cancer in Long Island, New York, a high-risk region. Adipose OCP/PCB levels were measured using a supercritical fluid extraction method developed by the authors. 1,1-Dichloro-2,2-di(4-chlorophenyl)ethylene (p,p’- DDE) was detected in all adipose and serum samples; two chlordane derivatives, β-hexachlorocyclohexane (a lindane isomer) and hexachlorobenzene, were detected in at least 92% of adipose samples. The di-ortho hexachlorinated PCB congeners 2,4,5,2’,4’,5’- hexachlorobiphenyl and 2,3,4,2’,4’,5’-hexachlorobiphenyl were detected in all adipose and over 98% of serum samples. 1,1-Dichloro-2,2-di(4-chlorophenyl)ethylene comprised 77% of total pesticide residues in adipose and 71% in serum. 2,4,5,2’,4’,5’-Hexachlorobiphenyl comprised 24% of adipose and 21 % of serum PCBs. The relative concentration patterns of the 14 PCB congeners were similar to those reported in other human studies and were also typical of patterns reported in environmental samples from various biota, including mammals and birds, but differed substantially from patterns reported in occupationally exposed workers. All adipose-serum correlations for pesticides and most PCBs were statistically significant. Either serum or adipose OCP/PCB levels of a variety of environmental organochlorine compounds may serve as useful biomarkers of body burden.


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Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention

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December 5, 2014


In the early 1990s a number of investigations of possible environmental causes of breast cancer were initiated in high-incidence areas of the United States. Long Island, NY, in particular, was singled out in a Congressional amendment to the National Cancer Institute's funding legislation (P.L. 103-43), mandating studies of possible roles of drinking water, air pollution, electromagnetic fields, aircraft emissions, hazardous waste, and toxic chemicals such as pesticides. I was Principal Investigator for an American Health Foundation hospital-based case-control study in collaboration with the two largest hospitals serving Long Island: Long Island Jewish Hospital and North Shore Community Hospital (now a single institution - the North Shore - LIJ Health System). The study focused on two distinct classes of long-lived organochlorine compounds: a group of seven pesticides including DDT, and a 14 congeners of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), long banned for commercial use in the US but still wide-spread in the environment.