Background: There is conflicting epidemiological evidence concerning an increase in risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) associated with elevated blood levels of persistent organochlorine (OC) pesticides and polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs).
Methods: We measured the concentration of 17 OC pesticides, including hexachlorobenzene (HCB), four lindane isomers (α-, β-, γ- and δ-hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH)), two chlordane species (heptachlor and oxy-chlordane), four cyclodiene insecticides (aldrin, dieldrin, endrin and mirex), six dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) isomers and nine PCB congeners (PCBs 28, 52, 101, 118, 138, 153, 170, 180 and 194) in plasma samples of 377 subjects, including 174 NHL cases and 203 controls from France, Germany and Spain. The risk of NHL and its major subtypes associated with increasing blood levels of OC pesticides and PCBs was calculated using unconditional logistic regression.
Results: Risk of NHL, diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and chronic lymphatic leukaemia (CLL) did not increase with plasma levels of HCB, β-HCH, p,p′-dichloro-diphenyl-dichloroethylene (DDE), or total and individual PCBs or their functional groups, in the overall study population. Substantial heterogeneity in DLBCL risk associated with immunotoxic PCBs (p = 0.03) existed between the Spanish subgroup (odds ratio (OR) for immunotoxic PCB plasma level above the median vs below the median was 0.7, 95% CI 0.3 to 1.6) and the French and German subgroups combined (OR 3.2, 95% CI 0.9 to 11.5).
Conclusion: We did not find evidence of an association between NHL risk and plasma level of OC pesticides and PCBs.
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Funding: The study was supported by grants from the European Commission, 5th Framework Program, Quality of Life (grant no. QLK4-CT-2000-00422), the Spanish Ministry of Health (grant no. 04-0091, RCESP 09-10), the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection (grants no. StSch4261 and StSch4420), the German Research Foundation (grant no. 4850/161/03), La Fondation de France, and Compagnia di San Paolo di Torino, Programma Oncologia 2001.
Competing interests: None.