Abundance and distribution of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in breast tissue

Rachel E. Ellsworth, Kimberly A. Mamula, Nicholas S. Costantino, Brenda Deyarmin, Paul J. Kostyniak, Lai Har Chi, Craig D. Shriver, Darrell L. Ellsworth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Many environmental chemicals accumulate in human tissues and may contribute to cancer risk. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are associated with adverse health effects, but relationships between PCB exposure and breast cancer are unclear. In this study, we sought to determine whether bioaccumulation of PCBs differs within regions of the human breast and whether PCB levels are associated with clinical and pathological characteristics in breast cancer patients. Tissue sections (. n=245) were collected from breast quadrants from 51 women with a diagnosis ranging from disease-free to metastatic breast cancer. Ninety-seven PCB congeners were assayed by high resolution gas chromatography. ANOVA was used to examine PCB distribution within the breast and relationships with clinical/pathological variables. Pearson product-moment correlations assessed relationships between age at mastectomy and PCB levels. PCBs were abundant in breast tissues with a median concentration of 293.4. ng/g lipid (range 15.4-1636.3. ng/g). PCB levels in breast tissue were significantly different (. p<0.001) among functional groupings of congeners defined by structure-activity properties: Group I (28.2. ng/g), Group II (96.6. ng/g), Group III (166.0. ng/g). Total PCB concentration was highly correlated with age at mastectomy, but the distribution of PCBs did not differ by breast quadrant. PCB levels were not associated with patient status or tumor characteristics. In conclusion, PCB congeners with carcinogenic potential were present at high levels in the human breast, but were not associated with clinical or pathological characteristics in breast cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-297
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Breast stroma
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Organochlorines
  • PCBs
  • Risk prediction


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