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Last Edited: 7/29/2010

Organochlorine Body Burden in Women With and Without Breast Cancer
06/1996 - 05/2001


Recently considerable concern has focused on the relationship between environmental contaminants and the incidence of breast cancer.  Organohalogenated compounds such as dioxins, furans, PCBs, PBDEs and certain pesticides are ubiquitous in our environment and are known to have hormonal or carcinogenic effects in animals.  The epidemiologic evidence, however, has been inconsistent.  This study is designed to analyze and compare the concentrations of these compounds in the breast fat of women who had breast cancer with women who had benign breast conditions.  It also examines the differences in xenoestrogen body burden levels between women of color and non-Hispanic white women.

Women of color living in inner-city environments may be disproportionately exposed to industrial pollutants.  Additionally, women who live in rural areas may have accumulated higher levels of DDT and related compounds from agricultural applications of organochlorine pesticides.  A few recent studies have considered the role these chemicals may play in causing breast cancer through their hormonal effects on breast tissue.  These have had conflicting results and left many unanswered questions.  Most were only able to test for total levels of DDT and PCBs.  As these compounds are complex mixtures, it is likely that some of the individual substances within the mixtures may act differently.

We have developed the capability for testing the individual components of DDT, other pesticides, PCBs and dioxins known to have hormonal or cancer causing effects in animals.  This study compares the levels of this expanded list of compounds in San Francisco Bay Area women with breast cancer to those undergoing biopsies for non-cancerous conditions.