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Prediagnostic serum polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations and primary liver cancer: A case-control study nested within two prospective cohorts

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were used in electrical equipment and a range of construction materials. Although banned in the United States and most of Europe in the 1970s, they are highly persistent in the environment and bioaccumulate. Whether PCBs are associated with liver cancer risk at general population levels is unknown. This study consisted of 136 incident liver cancer cases and 408 matched controls from the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Multiphasic Health Checkup (MHC) cohort and 84 cases and 252 matched controls from the Norwegian Janus cohort. Sera collected in the 1960s-1980s were measured for 37 PCB congeners and markers of hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) infection. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for tertiles of each lipid-adjusted PCB were estimated from conditional logistic regression. We also examined the molar sum of congeners in groups: total PCBs; low, medium, and high chlorination; and Wolff functional groups. Concentrations of individual congeners from the 1960s/1970s sera ranged from 1.3-123.0 and 1.4-116.0 ng/g lipid among MHC cases and controls, respectively, and from 1.9-258.0 and 1.9-271.0 ng/g lipid among Janus cases and controls, respectively. Among MHC participants with sera from the 1960s, collected an average of 27 years before diagnosis among cases, the top tertile of PCBs 151, 170, 172, 177, 178, 180, and 195 was significantly associated with elevated odds of liver cancer (OR range = 2.01-2.38); most of these congeners demonstrated exposure-response trends. For example, ORtertile 3vs1 = 2.38 (95% CI: 1.22-4.64, p-trend = 0.01) for PCB 180. As a group, Wolff group 1b congeners, which are biologically persistent and weak phenobarbital inducers, were associated with increased odds. In MHC participants, ever vs. never HBV or HCV infection modified the PCB-liver cancer associations. There was little evidence of an association between PCBs and odds of liver cancer among the Janus cohort. We observed associations between a number of PCB congeners and increased odds of liver cancer among MHC, but not Janus, participants with sera from the 1960s/1970s.

Authors: Niehoff NM; Zabor EC; Satagopan J; Widell A; O'Brien TR; Zhang M; Rothman N; Grimsrud TK; Van Den Eeden SK; Engel LS

Environ Res. 2020 08;187:109690. Epub 2020-05-20.

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