Association between polychlorinated biphenyl 153 exposure and serum testosterone levels: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Joon Yau Leong, Ruben Blachman-Braun, Amir Shahreza Patel, Premal Patel, Ranjith Ramasamy


Background: To examine the effects of environmental polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) 153 exposure, an industrial plasticizer, on serum testosterone levels.
Methods: Using data collected from the 1999–2000 and 2001–2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), we analyzed serum total testosterone and PCB153 levels, demographic data and comorbidities for men aged 18 years and older. Univariate and multivariate linear regression analysis was used to evaluate the association between total testosterone and serum PCB153.
Results: Five hundred and fifty-seven men met inclusion criteria. Median age was 45.7 [33.4–60.4] years old while median serum total testosterone and PCB153 levels were 479 [352.5–607] ng/dL and 0.20 [0.11– 0.39] ng/g, respectively. Increasing age, higher body mass index (BMI), higher levels of serum PCB153, lower levels of activity and a history of diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease were associated with decreasing serum testosterone levels on univariate linear regression. On multivariate linear regression, increasing age (estimate −6.29 ng/dL per year of life, P<0.001) and BMI (estimate −7.08 ng/dL per unit BMI, P<0.001) were associated with declining serum testosterone levels. While serum PCB153 levels were found to be negatively correlated with serum testosterone levels on univariate analysis (estimate −179.67, P<0.001), this association was not significant on the multivariable model (estimate −12.83, P=0.673).
Conclusions: In this population-based analysis, we report an association between a decrease in serum testosterone with increasing serum levels of PCB153. Identifying environmental factors for etiology of low testosterone and mechanisms for causation will be important to aid in strategies to increase testosterone naturally in men.