European journal of endocrinology

High cortisol and cortisone levels are associated with breast milk dioxin concentrations in Vietnamese women.

PMID 24123093


Dioxin (polychlorinated dibenzodioxins+polychlorinated dibenzofurans) is one of the most toxic chemical substances known. Although it is suspected to cause endocrine disruption, very few epidemiological studies have been carried out on its effects on human steroid hormones. The aim of this study was to elucidate the association of dioxin exposure with steroid hormone levels in the saliva and serum of Vietnamese women. Two areas, namely Phu Cat (hot spot) and Kim Bang (nonexposed area), were selected for the study. The study subjects consisted of 51 and 58 women respectively. Saliva, blood, and breast milk samples were collected from the subjects in both the areas. Cortisol, cortisone, DHEA, androstenedione, estrone, and estradiol levels in serum and saliva were determined by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry; dioxin concentrations in breast milk were measured by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Dioxin concentrations in the breast milk of women from the dioxin hot spot were three to four times higher than those in the breast milk of women from the nonexposed area. Good correlations were found between the levels of six steroid hormones in saliva and those in serum respectively. Salivary and serum cortisol and cortisone levels in women from the dioxin hot spot were significantly higher than those in women from the nonexposed area (P<0.001) and those in all the subjects were positively associated with dioxin concentrations in Vietnamese women (P<0.01). These results suggest that dioxin influences steroidogenesis in humans. Saliva samples can be used for hormone analysis and are therefore excellent specimens in epidemiological studies.