The role of metals in breast cancer is of interest because of their carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting capabilities. Evidence from epidemiologic studies remains elusive, and prior studies have not investigated metal mixtures. In a case cohort nested within the Sister Study (enrolled in 2003–2009; followed through September 2017), we measured concentrations of 15 metals in toenails collected at enrollment in a race/ethnicity-stratified sample of 1,495 cases and a subcohort of 1,605 women. We estimated hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for each metal using Cox regression and robust variance. We used quantile g-computation to estimate the joint association between multiple metals and breast cancer risk. The average duration of follow-up was 7.5 years. There was little evidence supporting an association between individual metals and breast cancer. An exception was molybdenum, which was associated with reduced incidence of overall breast cancer risk (third tertile vs. first tertile: hazard ratio = 0.82, 95% confidence interval: 0.67, 1.00). An inverse association for antimony was observed among non-Hispanic Black women. Predefined groups of metals (all metals, nonessential metals, essential metals, and metalloestrogens) were not strongly associated with breast cancer. This study offers little support for metals, individually or as mixtures, as risk factors for breast cancer. Mechanisms for inverse associations with some metals warrant further study.
Metals and breast cancer risk
A prospective study using toenail biomarkers
Niehoff, N. M., O’Brien, K. M., Keil, A. P., Levine, K. E., Liyanapatirana, C., Haines, L. G., Waidyanatha, S. W., Weinberg, C. R., & J White, A. (2021). Metals and breast cancer risk: A prospective study using toenail biomarkers. American Journal of Epidemiology, 190(11), 2360-2373. https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwab204