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Exposure to hazardous air pollutants and risk of incident breast cancer in the Nurses’ Health Study II



Findings from a recent prospective cohort study in California suggested increased risk of breast cancer associated with higher exposure to certain carcinogenic and estrogen-disrupting hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). However, to date, no nationwide studies have evaluated these possible associations. Our objective was to examine the impacts of mammary carcinogen and estrogen disrupting HAPs on risk of invasive breast cancer in a nationwide cohort.


We assigned HAPs from the US Environmental Protection Agency's 2002 National Air Toxics Assessment to 109,239 members of the nationwide, prospective Nurses' Health Study II (NHSII). Risk of overall invasive, estrogen receptor (ER)-positive (ER+), and ER-negative (ER-) breast cancer with increasing quartiles of exposure were assessed in time-varying multivariable proportional hazards models, adjusted for traditional breast cancer risk factors.


A total of 3321 invasive cases occurred (2160 ER+, 558 ER-) during follow-up 1989-2011. Overall, there was no consistent pattern of elevated risk of the HAPs with risk of breast cancer. Suggestive elevations were only seen with increasing 1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane exposures (multivariable adjusted HR of overall breast cancer = 1.12, 95% CI: 0.98-1.29; ER+ breast cancer HR = 1.09; 95% CI: 0.92, 1.30; ER- breast cancer HR = 1.14; 95% CI: 0.81, 1.61; each in the top exposure quartile compared to the lowest).


Exposures to HAPs during adulthood were not consistently associated with an increased risk of overall or estrogen-receptor subtypes of invasive breast cancer in this nationwide cohort of women.

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