Environmental exposure to PCBs and cancer incidence in eastern Slovakia

Marian Pavuk, James R. Cerhan, Charles F. Lynch, Arnold Schecter, Jan Petrik, Jana Chovancova, Anton Kocan

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76 Scopus citations


In a population-based cross-sectional study, we compared serum levels of 15 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners and three organochlorine pesticides in residents of two districts in eastern Slovakia, one with extensive environmental contamination from a former PCB production site (Michalovce) and the other matched on geography but with low (background) levels (Svidnik). The age-adjusted geometric means for sum of 15 measured PCB congeners were statistically significantly higher in subjects from the Michalovce district for both sexes: 3327.6 versus 1331.4 ng/g of lipid in males, 2751.8 versus 992.2 ng/g of lipid in females. Levels of DDE and DDT were also significantly higher, although the absolute differences were less pronounced. There was no substantial difference in HCB levels between the districts. We also conducted an ecologic study to compare cancer incidence occurring in these same two districts from 1985 through 1994. We calculated standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) and 95% confidence intervals for each district using indirect standardization and rates from eastern Slovakia. Among males from Michalovce (exposed), but not Svidnik (unexposed), there was an excess of cancer of the tongue (SIR=1.46; 1.06-1.96), stomach (SIR=1.15; 1.00-1.32), lung (SIR=1.14; 1.04-1.24), testis (SIR=1.40; 0.97-1.97), and kidney (SIR=1.23; 0.98-1.52), and lower than expected incidence of prostate cancer (SIR=0.83; 0.69-0.97); in contrast, there was an excess of peritoneal (SIR=3.05; 1.11-6.63) and laryngeal cancer (SIR=1.43; 0.99-1.98) in Svidnik not observed Michalovce. Among females from Michalovce, but not Svidnik, there was an excess of cancer of the lip (SIR=2.54; 1.53-3.96), stomach (SIR=1.22; 1.02-1.44), and lung (SIR=1.17; 0.94-1.45); in contrast, there was an excess of kidney (SIR=1.61; 1.03-2.40) and thyroid (SIR=1.97; 1.12-3.20) cancer in Svidnik not observed in Michalovce. Taken together, these results raise the possibility that high environmental exposure to organochlorines in the Michalovce district may be associated with higher rates of certain cancers, particularly stomach and lung cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1509-1520
Number of pages12
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Cancer
  • Cross-sectional study
  • Ecologic study
  • Organochlorines
  • PCBs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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