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Indian J Med Paediatr Oncol. 2010 Oct;31(4):110-20. doi: 10.4103/0971-5851.76191.

Pesticides and brain cancer linked in orchard farmers of Kashmir.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Srinagar, Kashmir - 190011, India.



The atmosphere of valley of Kashmir is ideal for fresh and dry fruit production. Millions of tons of pesticides, insecticides and fungicides (chemicals like chlorpyriphos, mancozeb, captan, dimethoate, phosalone, etc.) are being used by the orchard farmers to spray the plants, fruits and the leaves every year. The increasing trend in the incidence of primary malignant brain tumors in orchard farmers of Kashmir is alarming.


To determine the relationship between the patients of primary malignant brain tumors and their occupation.


Retrospectively case files along with death certificates of 432 patients of primary malignant brain tumors and 457 controls (non-tumor neurologic diseases), admitted for treatment simultaneously over a period of 4 years from January 2005 to December 2008, to the Department of Neurosurgery, Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Kashmir, were studied. Follow-up and family contact was established. The serum cholinesterase activity was measured by kinetic/DGKC calorimetric method and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) samples were sent to the laboratory. The results are expressed in U/l which is U/l×1000. The laboratory at SKIMS, Srinagar, and Dr Lal PathLabs at New Delhi used a reference range for serum cholinesterase as 3167-6333 U/l.


Analysis revealed that 90.04% (389 out of 432) patients were orchard-farm workers, orchard residents and orchard playing children exposed to the high levels of multiple types of neurotoxic and carcinogenic (chlorpyriphos, dimethoate, mancozeb and captan) chemicals for more than 10-20 years. About 31.9% (124 out of 389) of these from both sexes were younger than 40 years beginning exposure at an early age and had higher (<6334 U/l) serum cholinesterase (SCE) levels. The 9.96% (43 out of 432) patients were not exposed to pesticides. On the other hand, only 119 patients out of 457 controls had recorded history of pesticide exposure and 338 were unrelated to pesticides. Out of 389 patients, 71.7% (279 out of 389) were males and 28.3% (110 out of 389) including 7 members of three families, 6 were females and 1 male.


All orchard-related 389 patients had high grade tumors as compared to the non-pesticide tumors. Mortality in pesticide exposed tumors was 12%. Higher levels of SCE were found in 31.9% (124 out of 389) patients and decreased levels in only 45.3% (176 out of 389) orchard-related patients. The significantcase/control odds ratio (OR) of 0.28, hospital control SCE OR of 1.1 and family control SCE OR of 1.5, points the finger of suspicion toward the link between pesticides and brain cancer.


Brain cancer; Kashmir; orchard farmers; pesticides

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