Adult Cancers

Though most studies among adults focused on the agricultural use of pesticides, several case-control studies evaluated residential use of pesticides and cancer incidence.

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Several studies found no association between residential use of pesticides and an increased risk of breast cancer.9-11 One case-control study conducted on Long Island, New York found that ever-use of residential pesticides resulted in an increased risk of breast cancer (OR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.15-1.68), though the risk did not appear to increase with increasing number of applications or dose-response.12

A study of 287 melanoma cases and 299 controls demonstrated a dose-repose (P = .027) of increased risk of melanoma with indoor pesticide use.13 Four annual applications of indoor pesticides was significantly associated with melanoma compared with 1 application (OR, 2.18; 95% CI, 1.07-4.43), and 10 years of exposure also resulted in an increased risk of melanoma compared with less than 10 years (OR, 2.46; 95% CI, 1.23-4.94).

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Occupational Use

The majority of studies evaluated the agricultural use of pesticides, though some studies included other occupations.

The data regarding whether an increased risk of cancer overall is associated with the agricultural use of pesticides are mixed. Several studies showed no association with glyphosate, organochlorines, and imazethapyr and overall cancer incidence.14-17

Specific cancer types, however, were associated with specific pesticides. High exposure to the organochlorine chlordane was associated with rectal cancer (risk ratio [RR], 2.7; 95% CI, 1.1-6.8), dieldrin with lung cancer (RR, 2.8; 95% CI, 1.1-7.2), toxaphene with melanoma (RR, 2.9; 95% CI, 1.1-8.1), and chlordane/heptachlor with leukemia (RR, 2.6; 95% CI, 1.2-6.0). High exposure to the herbicide imazethapyr, which is used on peanut fields, was significantly associated with colon (RR, 1.78; 95% CI, 1.08-2.93) and bladder (RR, 2.37; 95% CI, 1.20-4.68) cancers compared with no exposure, but not other types of cancers such as prostate, lung, melanoma, kidney, and hematopoietic cancers. High exposure to butylate, which is applied to corn fields, was significantly associated with NHL compared with no exposure (RR, 2.94; 95% CI, 1.49-5.76) and low exposure (RR, 3.44; 95% CI, 1.29-9.21). Other cancer types demonstrated no association.

Pesticide use during agricultural activities was not associated with an increased risk of glioma or breast, pancreatic, or prostate cancer.18-21 In more recent cohort study prostate cancer was, however, associated with agricultural tasks that required insecticide or pesticide use, and in another cohort study, bladder cancer was significantly associated with field workers.20,22