Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are human carcinogens, based on sufficient evidence for melanoma and limited evidence for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and breast cancer. Few data are available for liver cancer, although PCBs cause it in rats and determined liver damage in poisoned people. We investigated the association between PCB serum levels and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with a case–control study in a PCB-polluted area in North Italy. We enrolled prospectively 102 HCC incident cases and 102 age and gender-matched hospital controls. Serum concentrations of 33 PCB congeners were determined by a gas chromatograph coupled to mass spectrometry. Of 102 HCC cases, 62 who had lost < 3 kg of body weight in past 3 years were included in the analysis (67.7% males, mean age 68 years). The odds ratio (OR) for HCC for 3rd compared to 1st tertile of PCB distribution was 1.76 (95% confidence interval 0.62–5.03) for total PCB, adjusting for socio-demographic variables and risk factors for HCC by logistic regression. For most PCB congeners, ORs > 1.5 or 2 were found, although the 95% CIs included the null value for almost all of them. This preliminary study suggests that PCBs might play a role in HCC development.
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