Childhood Cancer

A study of 2642 cases of lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and 2570 controls among children younger than 15 years evaluated pesticide use in neighborhoods.33 There was no association between lymphoma or leukemia rates and pesticide use. Another case-control study found no association between agricultural pesticide use within specific counties of Texas and risk of all cancers as well as leukemia, lymphoma, and central nervous system tumors.34

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Adult Cancers

A large, population-based study of 34,205 cancer cases and over 1.8 million controls conducted in Spain demonstrated an increased risk of cancer at all sites, except NHL and Hodgkin lymphoma, within areas of high pesticide exposure.35

A nested case-control study from the United States also found no association between residential proximity to agricultural pesticide use and breast cancer.36 Yet in a study conducted in Australia, very high levels of organochlorine use were associated with a modest increased risk of breast cancer (standardized incidence ratio, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.03-1.17).37

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An increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma was significantly associated with agriculturally intensive areas in California that used high levels of organochlorines (OR, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.17-2.99).38

High levels of per capita pesticide consumption in Brazil were significantly associated with NHL among men (meta-RR [MRR], 2.92; 95% CI, 2.74-3.11) and women (MRR, 3.20; 95% CI, 2.98-3.43) compared with low levels of exposure.39 Moderate levels of pesticide consumption were also significantly associated with NHL, with MRRs ranging from 1.69 to 2.41.


Epidemiologic data, primarily from case-control studies, suggest that different types of pesticides are associated with specific types of cancers among children and adults. Residential use of pesticides, particularly during pregnancy, is associated with childhood cancers. Few data exist for residential use of pesticides and adult cancers — breast cancer was not associated with residential use, but high levels of indoor pesticides use may be associated with melanoma.

Agricultural use appears to pose the greatest risk, though this was dependent on the type of pesticide and cancer evaluated. Studies of the risk of cancer associated with living in an agricultural area where pesticide use is high are mixed, with some showing an association in areas with high pesticide consumption, but others showing no association.


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