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Cancer Incidence in the Agricultural Health Study

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Abstract:The Agricultural Health Study (AHS) was undertaken to ascertain the etiology of cancers observed to be elevated in agricultural populations. Methods: The AHS is a large prospective, cohort study of private applicators and commercial applicators licensed to apply restricted use pesticides, and the spouses of farmer applicators from Iowa and North Carolina, USA. Cohort members were matched to cancer registry files in Iowa and North Carolina, and to the National Death Index (NDI) to ascertain vital status. Incident cases were identified from enrollment through December 31, 2000. Standardized Incidence Ratios (SIRs) were used to compare the cancer incidence experience of cohort members to the total population of Iowa and North Carolina. Results: The overall cancer incidence among farmers (SIR=0.80, 0.76-0.84) and the spouses of farmers (SIR=0.83, 95% CI=0.77-0.89) are significantly lower than that expected, particularly for respiratory and urinary cancers. The overall cancer incidence of commercial pesticide applicators is comparable to the expected (SIR= 1.01, 95% CI=0.81-1.24). Smoking prevalence in this population is significantly lower than the national average. Prostate cancer was elevated among private applicators (SIR=1.16, 1.07-1.25) and among commercial applicators (SIR=1.29, 0.84-1.89). An excess risk of ovarian cancer was observed in female applicators in Iowa (SIR=3.99, 0.80-11.66) and North Carolina (SIR=3.86, 1.24-9.00), but not among the female spouses (SIR=0.66, 0.43-0.96). Female spouses were observed to have a significant excess of melanoma (SIR=1.45, 1.05-1.97) that is not observed among pesticide applicators. Conclusions: Low overall cancer incidence rates seemed to be a result of low overall smoking prevalence and other lifestyle factors, while excess cancer of the prostate and ovaries among applicators may be occupationally related. The excess risk of melanoma observed among spouses was unexpected.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency through its Office of Research and Development partially funded and collaborated in the research described here under Contracts 68-D99-011 to Battelle Memorial Institute and 68-D99-012 to RTI International and through Interagency Agreement DW-75-93912801-0 to the National Cancer Institute. It has been subjected to Agency review and approved for publication.
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Citation:Alavanja, M., D. P. Sandler, C. Lynch, C. Knott, J. H. Lubin, R. Tarone, K. W. Thomas, M. Dosemeci, J. Barker, J. A. Hoppin, and A. Blair. Cancer Incidence in the Agricultural Health Study. SCANDINAVIAN JOURNAL OF WORK, ENVIRONMENT, AND HEALTH. Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment, Helsinki, 31(Supp1):39-45, (2004).
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Contact: Liz Hope - (919) 541-2785 or hope.elizabeth@epa.gov
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Division: Human Exposure & Atmospheric Sciences Division
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Branch: Exposure Measurements & Analysis Branch
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Product Type: Journal
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Published: 10/01/2005
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Bullet Item Cancer Incidence in the Agricultural Health Study
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