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Correlation of Body Mass Index with Serum DDTs Predicts Lower Risk of Breast Cancer Before the Age of 50

2018 | The Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology


Many suspected breast cancer risk factors, including the pesticide DDT and its metabolite DDE, are stored in fat. PHI's Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS) recently published an article in The Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology where they tested the hypothesis that the relationship between DDT and DDE (DDTs) and obesity is modified by the disposition to develop breast cancer.


Study authors predicted that concentrations of serum DDTs would be inversely correlated with body mass index (BMI) during active exposure when DDTs move into the larger fat pool. They described this correlation at an average of 17 years before breast cancer was diagnosed, in a prospective nested case-control study in the Child Health and Development Studies.


Women entered the study during pregnancy from 1959 to 1966, when DDT was in active use. 


In total, 133 breast cancer cases were diagnosed under the age of 50 as of 1998. The average time to diagnosis was 17 years. In total, 133 controls were matched to cases on birth year. Study authors observed the expected inverse correlation of serum DDTs with BMI only in women who remained cancer-free and not in women who ultimately developed breast cancer. Findings suggest that vulnerability to breast cancer before the age of 50 may be associated with an uncoupling of the inverse correlation between BMI and serum DDTs. An investigation into mechanisms may eventually reveal early biomarkers of breast cancer risk.

Read the full study

Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS) investigates how health and disease are passed on between generations--not only genetically, but also through social, personal and environmental surroundings. Nearly 50 years ago, CHDS enrolled over 15,000 families during the mothers' early pregnancy. Families participated in comprehensive interviews about their health, lifestyle, and experiences. Follow-up studies CHDS children, now adults, and on their children, enable CHDS scientists to study health across generations and seek ways to prevent disease early in life.

Read more about this groundbreaking work: 



Piera M. Cirillo & Michele A. La Merrill, Barbara Cohn

Produced through PHI's:

Child Health and Development Studies