Background: Although studies in rodents suggest possible associations between exposure to organic solvents and breast cancer, the evidence in humans is limited.
Methods: We evaluated job histories of 2383 incident breast cancer cases, and 2502 controls who participated in a large population-based case-control study in Poland and were diagnosed during 2000-2003. Industrial hygienists reviewed occupational histories and developed exposure metrices for total organic solvents and benzene. Unconditional logistic regression analyses estimated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) as the measure of association with breast cancer risk, controlling for breast cancer risk factors. Stratified analyses examined the potential modification by known breast cancer risk factors. Associations were also evaluated by estrogen (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) status and by other clinical characteristics of the tumours using polytomous regression analyses.
Results: Women who ever worked at jobs with organic solvents exposure had a small but nonsignificantly increased breast cancer risk (OR=1.16; 95%CI 0.99 to 1.4), A significant association was present for ER and PR negative tumors (OR 1.40; 95% CI 1.1 to 1.8, but not for tumors with both positive receptors (OR 0.97; 95% CI 0.8 to 1.2,(p-heterogeneity: 0.008)). However, we did not observe trends with increasing level of exposure. Known breast cancer risk factors did not modify the association with organic solvents and breast cancer risk. No significant association with risk was found for benzene exposure (OR 1.00; 95% CI 0.8 to 1.3).
Conclusion: Our study provides weak evidence for a possible association between occupational exposure to organic solvents as a class and breast cancer risk. The association might be limited to hormone receptor negative tumors.
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