Organochlorine pesticides and risk of papillary thyroid cancer in U.S. military personnel: a nested case-control study

Jennifer A. Rusiecki*, Jordan McAdam, Hristina Denic-Roberts, Andreas Sjodin, Mark Davis, Richard Jones, Thanh D. Hoang, Mary H. Ward, Shuangge Ma, Yawei Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The effects of organochlorine pesticide (OCP) exposure on the development of human papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) are not well understood. A nested case-control study was conducted with data from the U.S. Department of Defense Serum Repository (DoDSR) cohort between 2000 and 2013 to assess associations of individual OCPs serum concentrations with PTC risk. Methods: This study included 742 histologically confirmed PTC cases (341 females, 401 males) and 742 individually-matched controls with pre-diagnostic serum samples selected from the DoDSR. Associations between categories of lipid-corrected serum concentrations of seven OCPs and PTC risk were evaluated for classical PTC and follicular PTC using conditional logistic regression, adjusted for body mass index category and military branch to compute odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Effect modification by sex, birth cohort, and race was examined. Results: There was no evidence of associations between most of the OCPs and PTC, overall or stratified by histological subtype. Overall, there was no evidence of an association between hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and PTC, but stratified by histological subtype HCB was associated with significantly increased risk of classical PTC (third tertile above the limit of detection (LOD) vs. <LOD, OR = 1.61, 95% CI, 1.09, 2.38; p for trend = 0.05) and significantly decreased risk of follicular variant PTC (third tertile above the limit of detection (LOD) vs. <LOD, OR = 0.38, 95% CI, 0.16, 0.91; p for trend = 0.04). Further stratified by sex, risk of classical PTC was higher for females (third tertile above LOD vs. <LOD, OR = 2.23, 95% CI: 1.23, 4.06; p-trend = 0.02) than for males (OR = 1.22, 95%CI: 0.72–2.08; p-trend = 0.56), though the test for interaction by sex was not statistically significant (p-interaction = 0.30). Similarly, β-hexachlorocyclohexane (β-HCCH) was associated with a higher risk for classical PTC for women with concentrations ≥LOD versus <LOD (OR = 1.76, 95% CI: 1.07, 2.89), while the effects were null for men. There were no consistent trends when stratified by race or birth year. Conclusions: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified HCB and other OCPs we studied here as probable human carcinogens. Our findings of increased risks for classical PTC associated with increased concentrations of HCB and β-HCCH, which were stronger among females, should be replicated in future studies of other populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number28
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Organochlorine pesticides
  • Papillary thyroid cancer


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