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J Agromedicine. 2009;14(2):125-31. doi: 10.1080/10599240902779436.

Epidemiologic studies in agricultural populations: observations and future directions.

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Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


This paper reviews epidemiologic studies of cancer among agricultural populations to identify possible associations and to provide a focus for future investigations. Meta-analyses of mortality surveys of farmers find excesses of several cancers, including connective tissue, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma and cancers of the skin, stomach, and brain, and deficits for total mortality, heart disease, total cancer, and cancers of the esophagus, colon, lung, and bladder. Meta-analyses of studies of individual cancers also support these findings, indicating a need to identify exposures and lifestyle factors that might account for this mortality pattern. Although cancer studies of other occupations that might have pesticide exposures in common with farmers show some similarities with observations among farmers, the overall patterns are quite different. This suggests that pesticides are not likely to fully explain the cancer and other disease patterns observed among farmers. Because exposures vary by type of farm operation, exposures for individual farmers can differ considerably. Studies in the future need to focus on the full range of exposures to fully understand the cancer pattern in farmers.

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