Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health Online-first -article    pdf


Breast cancer and exposure to aircraft, road, and railway-noise: a case–control study based on health insurance records

by Hegewald J, Schubert M, Wagner M, Dröge P, Prote U, Swart E, Möhler U, Zeeb H, Seidler A

Objectives Aircraft, road, and rail traffic noise can cause sleep disturbances. Since night work and shorter sleep durations have been linked to increased risks of breast cancer, we examined if 24-hour, or day- or night-time traffic noise exposure may also increase the risk of breast cancer.

Methods To investigate the noise-related risks of breast cancer, the pseudonymized insurance records of three large statutory health companies (2005–2010) for women aged ≥40 years living in the region surrounding the Frankfurt international airport were analyzed with address-specific acoustic data representing aircraft, road, and rail-traffic noise. Noise exposure among women with incident breast cancer (N=6643) were compared with that of control subjects (N=471 596) using logistic regression and adjusting for age, hormone replacement therapy, education and occupation (only available for 27.9%), and a regional proportion of persons receiving long-term unemployment benefits as an ecological indicator of socioeconomic level. Analyses were also stratified according to estrogen receptor (ER) status.

Results An increased odds ratio (OR) was observed for ER negative tumors at 24-hour aircraft noise levels 55–59 dB [OR 55–59 dB 1.41, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.04–1.90] but not for ER positive breast cancers (OR 55–59 dB 0.95, 95% CI 0.75–1.20). Clear associations between road and rail traffic noise were not observed.

Conclusions The results indicate increased aircraft noise may be an etiologic factor for ER negative breast cancers. However, information regarding potential confounding factors was largely unattainable. Further research is required to understand how environmental noise may be involved in the pathogenesis of ER negative breast cancers.

This article refers to the following text of the Journal: 2013;39(5):431-447
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