Organochlorine concentrations in adipose tissue and survival in postmenopausal, Danish breast cancer patients

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Several studies have investigated an association between organochlorine-concentrations and breast cancer incidence, whereas few have investigated an association with breast cancer mortality.


We used Cox Proportional Hazards Models to estimate the association between adipose organochlorine-concentrations and mortality after breast cancer in a survivor-cohort of 399 postmenopausal women. During a median follow-up of 16.1 years, 177 women died; 119 from breast cancer.


There was a general inverse association with PCB-concentration (e.g. ΣPCBs: Mortality Rate Ratio (MRR) 0.79, 95% confidence interval (CI) (0.64–0.98) per inter-quartile range (IQR)), and for all pesticides, except β-Hexachlorocyclohexane, which was not associated with mortality (MRR 1.02(0.87–1.18) per IQR), and dieldrin, which was associated with a significantly increased risk of death (MRR 1.22(1.05–1.41) per IQR). We found an interaction with prognostic factors for all PCBs, confining the inverse association to those with adverse prognostic factors. Results for pesticides suggested a similar, but mostly non-significant interaction. Dieldrin diverged from the general picture by being associated with increased mortality across all strata.


A higher concentration of PCBs and several organochlorine pesticides may be inversely associated with breast cancer mortality among women with adverse prognostic factors. Further studies are required to investigate if this is a causal association. Dieldrin was associated with a higher mortality, regardless of prognostic factors.


This is the first study to investigate an association between organochlorine concentrations in adipose tissue and breast cancer mortality. A prominent finding is a strong interaction with prognostic factors. The unexpected direction of association for most organochlorines encourages further studies of the role of individual metabolism of the organochlorines and a potentially stronger effect of the metabolites on mortality.

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