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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1987 May;78(5):899-910.

Soft tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in relation to phenoxyherbicide and chlorinated phenol exposure in western Washington.


A population-based case-control study was conducted in western Washington State to evaluate the relationship between occupational exposure of men aged 20-79 to phenoxyacetic acid herbicides and chlorinated phenols and the risks of developing soft tissue sarcoma (STS) and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). Occupational histories and other data were obtained by personal interviews for 128 STS cases and 576 NHL cases, diagnosed between 1981 and 1984, and for 694 randomly selected controls without cancer. Among the study subjects with any past occupational exposure to phenoxyherbicides, the estimated relative risk and 95% confidence interval of developing STS was 0.80 (0.5-1.2), and of developing NHL, 1.07 (0.8-1.4). Risk estimates of developing STS and NHL associated with past chlorophenol exposure were 0.99 (0.7-1.5) and 0.99 (0.8-1.2), respectively. No increasing risk of either cancer was associated with overall duration or intensity of chemical exposure or with exposure to any specific phenoxyherbicide per se. However, estimated risks of NHL were elevated among men who had been farmers, 1.33 (1.03-1.7), forestry herbicide applicators, 4.80 (1.2-19.4), and for those potentially exposed to phenoxyherbicides in any occupation for 15 years or more during the period prior to 15 years before cancer diagnosis, 1.71 (1.04-2.8). Increased risks of NHL were also observed among those with occupational exposure to organochlorine insecticides, such as DDT [1.82 (1.04-3.2)] and organic solvents [1.35 (1.06-1.7)], and to other chemicals typically encountered in the agricultural, forestry, or wood products industries. These results demonstrate small but significantly increased risks of developing NHL in association with some occupational activities where phenoxyherbicides have been used in combination with other types of chemicals, particularly for prolonged periods. They do not demonstrate a positive association between increased cancer risks and exposure to any specific phenoxyherbicide product alone. Moreover, these findings provide no evidence of increased risks of developing NHL associated with chlorinated phenol exposure or of developing STS associated with exposure to either class of chemical.

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