A nested case-control study of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and serum organochlorine residues

Nathaniel Rothman, Kenneth P. Cantor, Aaron Blair, David Bush, John W. Brock, Kathy Helzlsouer, Shelia H. Zahm, Larry L. Needham, Gary R. Pearson, Robert N. Hoover, George W. Comstock, Paul T. Strickland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


Background: The steady worldwide increase in the incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma during the past few decades remains mostly unexplained. Several studies suggest that there may be an association between the agricultural use of the organochlorine 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2'bis( p-chlorophenyl)ethane (DDT) and increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. We have investigated the association between risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and body burden of selected organochlorines in the general population in a nested case-control study. Methods: We measured prediagnostic serum concentrations of DDT, its metabolites, and other organochlorines, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), in 74 cases of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and 147 matched controls identified from a prospective cohort of 25,802 adults, established in 1974 in Washington County, Maryland, USA. We report results for total lipid-corrected serum concentrations of DDT and total PCBs. Findings: There was a strong dose-response relation between quartiles of total lipid-corrected serum PCB concentrations and risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma overall (odds ratios by quartile: 1.0; 1.3 [95% CI 0.5-3.3]; 2.8 [1.1-7.6]); and 4.5 [1.7-12.0]; p for trend = 0.0008) and separately in men and in women. There was also evidence suggesting that seropositivity for the Epstein-Barr virus early antigen potentiated the effects of serum PCBs. By contrast, total lipid-corrected serum concentrations of DDT were not associated with risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Interpretation: These results should be regarded as hypothesis-generating. Before causal inferences can be made about exposure to PCBs and increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, our findings require replication and the biological plausibility of the association needs further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-244
Number of pages5
Issue number9073
StatePublished - Jul 26 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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