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Environ Health Perspect. 2003 February; 111(2): 167–173.
PMCID: PMC1241345
Research Article

Perchloroethylene-contaminated drinking water and the risk of breast cancer: additional results from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA.


In 1998 we published the results of a study suggesting an association between breast cancer and perchloroethylene (PCE; also called tetrachloroethylene) exposure from public drinking water. The present case-control study was undertaken to evaluate this association further. The cases were composed of female residents of eight towns in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts who had been diagnosed with breast cancer from 1987 through 1993 (n = 672). Controls were composed of demographically similar women from the same towns (n = 616). Women were exposed to PCE when it leached from the vinyl lining of water distribution pipes from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. A relative delivered dose of PCE that entered a home was estimated using an algorithm that took into account residential history, water flow, and pipe characteristics. Small to moderate elevations in risk were seen among women whose exposure levels were above the 75th and 90th percentiles when 0-15 years of latency were considered (adjusted odds ratios, 1.5-1.9 for > 75th percentile, 1.3-2.8 for > 90th percentile). When data from the present and prior studies were combined, small to moderate increases in risk were also seen among women whose exposure levels were above the 75th and 90th percentiles when 0-15 years of latency were considered (adjusted odds ratios, 1.6-1.9 for > 75th percentile, 1.3-1.9 for > 90th percentile). The results of the present study confirm those of the previous one and suggest that women with the highest PCE exposure levels have a small to moderate increased risk of breast cancer.

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Selected References

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