A nested case-control study of serum polychlorinated biphenyls and papillary thyroid cancer risk among U.S. military service members

Haoran Zhuo, Huang Huang, Andreas Sjodin, Lan Jin, Shuangge Ma, Hristina Denic-Roberts, Joshua L. Warren, Richard Jones, Mark Davis, Peiyuan Sun, Herbert Yu, Mary H. Ward, Robert Udelsman, Yawei Zhang, Jennifer A. Rusiecki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background and objectives: Although polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were banned decades ago, populations are continuously exposed to PCBs due to their persistence and bioaccumulation/biomagnification in the environment. Results from limited epidemiologic studies linking PCBs to thyroid cancer have been inconclusive. This study aimed to investigate the association between individual PCBs and PCB mixture and papillary thyroid cancer (PTC), the most common thyroid cancer histologic subtype. Methods: We carried out a nested case-control study including 742 histologically confirmed PTC cases diagnosed in 2000–2013 and 742 individually matched controls among U.S. military service members. Pre-diagnostic serum samples that were collected on average nine years before PTC diagnosis were used to measure PCB congeners by gas chromatography isotope dilution high resolution mass spectrometry (GC/ID-HRMS). Conditional logistic regression, Bayesian kernel machine regression (BKMR), and weighted quantile sum (WQS) regression were employed to estimate the association between single PCB congeners as well as their mixture and PTC. Results: Four PCB congeners (PCB-74, PCB-99, PCB-105, PCB-118) had significant associations and dose-response relationships with increased risk of PTC in single congener models. When considering the effects from all measured PCBs and their potential interactions in the BKMR model, PCB-118 showed positive trends of association with PTC. Increased exposure to the PCB congeners as a mixturewas also associated with an increased risk of PTC in the WQS model, with the mixture dominated by PCB-118, followed by PCB-74 and PCB-99. One PCB congener, PCB-187, showed an inverse trend of association with PTC in the mixture analysis. Discussion: This study suggests that exposure to certain PCBs as well as a mixture of PCBs were associated with an increased risk of PTC. The observed association was mainly driven by PCB-118, and to a lesser extent by PCB-74 and PCB-99. The findings warrant further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113367
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Endocrine disrupting chemicals
  • Mixtures
  • PCBs
  • Papillary thyroid cancer
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls


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