05/05/2003 - News

Link between breast cancer and pesticides uncovered

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


Women diagnosed with breast cancer were more likely to have detectable amounts of pesticide residues in their blood.

Although organochlorine (DDT) pesticides were banned in the US as long ago as 1992, their residues can linger in body tissue for up to 50 years. Such chemicals are known to have an estrogenic effect and much previous research suggests a link with ill health, including cancer.

Researchers in Belgium examined a group of 600 women referred for the investigation of breast lumps, of whom 159 were diagnosed with breast cancer. Levels of DDT and other pesticide, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), were measured and compared with those for a group of healthy controls.

Those with breast cancer were over five times more likely to have detectable levels of both DDT and HCB in their blood than the healthy women. The study does not prove that pesticides cause breast cancer, but adds to the growing evidence that these residues can have an impact on health.


Occupational and Environmental Medicine April 2003

Created on: 05/05/2003
Reviewed on: 05/05/2003

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