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Environ Health Perspect. 2006 May;114(5):740-5.

Body burdens of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, dibenzofurans, and biphenyls and their relations to estrogen metabolism in pregnant women.

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Division of Environmental Health and Occupational Medicine, National Health Research Institutes, Miaoli, and Graduate Institute of Occupational and Industrial Health, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.


Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs, dioxins), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are environmental endocrine disruptors that have half-lives of 7-10 years in the human body and have toxicities that probably include carcinogenesis. A high ratio of 4-hydroxyl estradiol (4-OH-E2) to 2-hydroxyl estradiol (2-OH-E2) has been suggested as a potential biomarker for estrogen-dependent neoplasms. In this cohort study of maternal-fetal pairs, we examined the relationship of PCDD/PCDF and PCB exposure to levels of estrogen metabolites in the sera of 50 pregnant women 25-34 years of age from central Taiwan. Maternal blood was collected during the third trimester, and the placenta was collected at delivery. We measured 17 dioxin congeners, 12 dioxin-like PCBs, and 6 indicator PCBs in placenta using gas chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry. Estrogen metabolites in maternal serum were analyzed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. The ratio of 4-OH-E2:2-OH-E2 decreased with increasing exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (beta=-0.124, p=0.004 by the general linear regression model, R=0.4). Meanwhile, serum levels of 4-OH-E2 increased with increasing concentrations of high-chlorinated PCDFs (i.e., 1,2,3,4,6,7,8-hepta-CDF: beta=0.454, p=0.03, R=0.30). Altered estrogen catabolism might be associated with body burdens of PCDDs/PCDFs. Our study suggests that exposure to PCDDs/PCDFs significantly affects estrogen metabolism. Therefore, PCDD/PCDF exposure must be considered when using the OH-E2 ratio as a breast cancer marker.

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