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Occup Environ Med. 2003 Sep;60(9):634-42.

Occupation related pesticide exposure and cancer of the prostate: a meta-analysis.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, Ghent University, De Pintelaan 185, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.



To summarise recent literature on the risk of prostate cancer in pesticide related occupations, to calculate the meta-rate ratio, and to compare it to data from meta-analyses previously published.


A meta-analysis of 22 epidemiological studies, published between 1995 and 2001, was conducted in order to pool their rate ratio estimates. Studies were summarised and evaluated for homogeneity and publication bias.


The meta-rate ratio estimate, based on 25 estimators of relative risk from 22 studies, was 1.13 (95% CI 1.04 to 1.22). Significant heterogeneity of rate ratios existed among the different studies. Therefore, a stratified analysis was carried out. Major sources of heterogeneity identified were geographic location, study design, and healthy worker effect. Overall, pooled risk estimates for studies derived from Europe were lower than those derived from the USA/Canada. A significant increase in rate ratio was observed for the occupation category of pesticide applicators, whereas no significant increase was observed for farmers. There was no evidence of publication bias.


This increased meta-rate ratio for prostate cancer in different pesticide related occupations, including farmers, is very similar to three, previously published, meta-rate ratios for prostate cancer in farmers calculated from studies published before 1995. Although the underlying data do not identify pesticide exposure as an independent cause for prostate cancer, the fact that an increased meta-rate ratio is again obtained points to occupational exposure to pesticides as a possible factor. Future epidemiological studies should focus, as far as possible, on reliable methods to estimate actual exposure.

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