Occupational exposure to specific organic solvents and risk of subtypes of breast cancer in a large population of Danish women, 1964-2016

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To explore associations between occupational exposure to four specific organic solvents, respectively, and female breast cancer, including subtypes.


Using the Danish Cancer Registry, we identified 38 375 women under age 70 years with primary breast cancer. Five randomly selected breast-cancer-free controls per case matched on year of birth were retrieved from the Danish Civil Registration System . A nationwide pension fund was used to retrieve full employment history, and exposure to 1,1,1-trichloroethane, trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene and toluene was assessed using a job exposure matrix. ORs were estimated using conditional logistic regression with adjustment for reproductive factors and socioeconomic status.


Overall results indicated no noteworthy associations between the specific organic solvents and breast cancer before and after age 50 years, except for a small increased risk after age 50 in women exposed to TCE (OR=1.15, 95% CI: 0.97-1.36). After age 50 years, exposure to TCE was associated with a small increased risk in women with over 20 years of latency (OR=1.26, 95% CI: 1.02-1.56). Further, an increased risk of oestrogen receptor positive (ER+) tumours was also observed (OR=1.21, 95% CI: 1.01-1.47), and high cumulative exposure and longer latency also increased the risk of this subtype.


This study provides limited evidence supporting the association between occupational exposure to each of the four organic solvents and breast cancer. The risk of ER+ breast tumours after age 50 years may be increased in women with TCE exposure, and this possible association therefore needs further attention in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOccupational and Environmental Medicine
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)192-198
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • epidemiology, cancer, women, benzene, solvents

ID: 258613265