A Cross-Sectional Study of the Association Between Perfluorinated Chemical Exposure and Cancers Related to Deregulation of Estrogen Receptors

Document Type


Publication Date



Background: Environmental exposures acting through different mechanisms have been linked with a number of cancers. Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs) are endocrine disrupting chemicals affecting estrogen homeostasis. Objectives: We examined the association between PFCs and a group of estrogen related cancers and explored if increased non-occupational exposure was associated with increased odds of developing these cancers. We also explored which of these chemical exposures was more correlated with each cancer. Methods: Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), we selected participants ≥ 20 years of age. Our outcome variable was presence or absence of breast, prostate, ovarian and uterine cancer (yes/no); our exposure variables were serum PFCs. Logistic regression models were used in investigating the association between PFCs and cancer types and between quartiles of PFCs exposure concentrations and presence or absence of cancer while adjusting for covariates. Discriminant analysis was used to assess the correlation between individual PFCs compounds and individual cancer types. Results: PFCs were associated with increased odds of ovarian cancer; PFOA: 1.02(1.01, 1.02), PFOS: 1.01 (1.012, 1.013), PFHS 1.031 (1.030, 1.033), PFDE: 1.29(1.27, 1.30) and increased odds of breast cancer; PFOA: 1.089(1.089, 1.09), PFOS: 1.011(1.011, 1.011), PFNA: 1.031(1.030, 1.033), PFHS: 1.02 (1.02, 1.02), PFDE: 1.19(1.18, 1.19). PFCs were not associated with increased odds of prostate or uterine cancers. Comparing the odds in quartile 4 to quartile 1 for ovarian cancer, PFOA: 1.77(1.75,1.79), PFOS: 2.25(2.22, 2.28), PFHS: 1.86(1.84, 1.88), PFDE: 2.11(2.09, 2.14). For breast cancer, PFOA: 2.30(2.28, 2.31), PFOS: 1.47(1.46, 1.48), PFNA: 1.04(1.03, 1.05), PFHS:7.07(6.97,7.17), PFDE: 1.38(1.37, 1.39). PFOA was more correlated with breast cancer (0.7) and PFHS was more correlated with ovarian cancer (0.9). Discussion: PFCs were associated with increased odds of ovarian and breast cancers with a positive dose-response relationship. PFOA was more correlated with breast cancer and PFHS more with ovarian cancer.