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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • pesticides;
  • organochlorines;
  • agriculture;
  • cohort study

Abstract

Organochlorine (OC) insecticides have been regulated as possible human carcinogens primarily on the basis of animal studies. However, the epidemiologic evidence is inconsistent. We investigated the relationship between cancer incidence and OC insecticide use among pesticide applicators enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study, a prospective cohort study of 57,311 licensed applicators in Iowa and North Carolina enrolled between 1993 and 1997. Information on ever use of 7 OC insecticides (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, heptachlor, lindane, toxaphene) was collected from a self-administered questionnaire at enrollment. Lifetime exposure-days to OC insecticides were calculated using additional data from a take-home questionnaire completed by 25,291 participants (44% of total). We found no clear evidence of an association between use of OC insecticides and incident cancers (N = 1,150) ascertained through December, 2002. When we focused on individual insecticides and structurally similar groups (aldrin and dieldrin; chlordane and heptachlor), significantly increased relative risks of some cancers were observed for use of some chemicals (rectal cancer and chlordane, lung cancer and dieldrin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and lindane, melanoma and toxaphene, leukemia and chlordane/heptachlor). Some significant decreased relative risks were also observed (colon cancer and aldrin; overall cancer and heptachlor). In conclusion, we did not observe any clear relationship between cancer risk and the use of OC insecticides. Our chemical-specific findings are based on small numbers and multiple comparisons, and should be interpreted with caution; however, some observed associations (lindane and NHL, chlordane/heptachlor and leukemia) are supported by previous evidence. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.