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A Congener-Specific and Mixture Analysis of Plasma Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Levels and Incident Breast Cancer


Parada, Humberto, Jr.; Benmarhnia, Tarik; Engel, Lawrence S.; Sun, Xuezheng; Tse, Chiu-Kit J.; Hoh, Eunha; Olshan, Andrew F.; & Troester, Melissa A. (2021). A Congener-Specific and Mixture Analysis of Plasma Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) Levels and Incident Breast Cancer. Epidemiology, 32(4), 499-507.


BACKGROUND: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a diverse class of chemicals, are hypothesized mammary carcinogens. We examined plasma levels of 17 PCBs as individual congeners and as a mixture in association with breast cancer using a novel approach based on quantile g-computation.
METHODS: This study included 845 White and 562 Black women who participated in the population-based, case-control Carolina Breast Cancer Study Phase I. Cases (n=748) were women with a first diagnosis of histologically confirmed, invasive breast cancer residing in 24 counties in central and eastern North Carolina; controls (n=659) were women without breast cancer from the same counties. PCBs were measured in plasma samples obtained during the study interview. We estimated associations (covariate-adjusted odds ratios [ORs] and 95% confidence intervals [CIs]) between individual PCB congeners and breast cancer using multivariable logistic regression. We assessed PCB mixtures using quantile g-computation and examined effect measure modification by race.
RESULTS: Comparing highest and lowest tertiles of PCBs resulted in ORs of 1.3 (95%CI=0.95-1.8) for congener 74, 1.4 (95%CI=1.0-1.9) for 99, 1.3 (95%CI=0.91-1.8) for 194, and 1.2 (95%CI=0.90-1.7) for 201. Among all women, we estimated a joint effect of the PCB mixture with an OR of 1.3 (95%CI=0.98-1.6) per tertile change. In race-stratified analyses, associations for tertiles of PCB mixtures were stronger among Black women (OR=1.5, 95%CI=1.0-2.3) than among White women (OR=1.1, 95%CI=0.81-1.6).
CONCLUSION: Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that exposure to PCB mixtures increase the risk of breast cancer, but studies of populations with different exposure profiles are needed.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Article Type


Year Published


Journal Title



Parada, Humberto, Jr.
Benmarhnia, Tarik
Engel, Lawrence S.
Sun, Xuezheng
Tse, Chiu-Kit J.
Hoh, Eunha
Olshan, Andrew F.
Troester, Melissa A.

Data Set/Study

Carolina Breast Cancer Study (CBCS)


United States of America