Farm-related exposures and childhood brain tumours in seven countries: results from the SEARCH International Brain Tumour Study


Dr Elizabeth A. Holly, Cancer
Epidemiology Studies,
Department of Epidemiology
and Biostatistics, University of
California San Francisco,
3333 California St., Suite 280,
San Francisco, CA 94118-1944,


A total of 1218 cases of childhood brain tumours (CBT) and 2223 control subjects from the general population were included in a population-based case–control study conducted in nine centres in seven countries. Mothers were asked about farm- or agriculture-related exposures. Significantly elevated odds ratios (OR) for CBT were associated with children's personal and maternal prenatal exposure while living on a farm with pigs (child OR = 1.7, mother OR = 2.3), horses (child OR = 1.6, mother OR = 1.8), dogs (child OR = 1.5, mother OR = 1.5) and cats (child OR = 1.5, mother OR = 1.7). Children who were exposed to pigs, horses and cats combined, while living on a farm, had a threefold elevated OR for CBT. Increased ORs for primitive neuroectodermal tumours (PNET) were associated with children's farm exposure to dogs (OR = 1.9) and cats (OR = 2.2), and maternal farm exposure to pigs (OR = 4.2). The OR for CBT was elevated (OR = 2.3) for children of mothers who had preconception/prenatal farm- or agriculture-related employment involving potential contact with animals, relative to no farm- or agriculture-related employment. In particular, increased ORs for CBT were observed for children of mothers who were employed as general farmers (OR = 4.1) or general farm workers (OR = 3.8). During the 5 years preceding the index child's birth, maternal exposures were related to CBT, relative to no maternal exposure to agricultural chemicals or animal products: fertilisers (OR = 1.8), pesticides (OR = 2.0), animal manure (OR = 2.0) and unprocessed wool (OR = 3.0). Our findings suggest that various farm-related exposures are positively associated with CBT and warrant further investigation into the public health importance of these associations.