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Scand J Work Environ Health. 1996 Aug;22(4):285-93.

Farming, pesticide use and hairy-cell leukemia.

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  • 1Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (National Institute of Health and Medical Research), INSERM U170, Villejuif, France.



This paper analyzes the role of farming and pesticide exposures in the occurrence of hairy-cell leukemia (HCL).


The study included 226 men with HCL and 425 matched hospital referents. Pesticide exposure was assessed by expert review of detailed interview data on occupational histories and agricultural activities and exposures.


Altogether, 77 cases and 116 referents had farmed for at least six months, giving an odds ratio (OR) of 1.5 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.0-2.2]. Forage growing was reported by 20.8% of the cases and 11.1% of the referents and was associated with HCL (OR 2.8, 95% CI 1.6-4.9), even among farmers who had never handled pesticides (OR 3.4, 95% CI 1.0-11.0). A significant association was found between HCL and pesticide use, the overall odds ratios for insecticide, fungicide, and herbicide use ranging from 1.5 to 2.4. Organophosphorus insecticides were the only agrochemicals with a positive association with HCL after other pesticide exposures, smoking, and forage growing were accounted for. A clear-cut negative interaction was found between smoking and exposure to organophosphorus insecticides. A multivariate analysis yielded odds ratio estimates of 2.8 (95% CI 1.4-5.6) for exposure to forage and 7.5 (95% CI 0.9-61.5) for nonsmokers exposed to organophosphorus insecticides.


The present study argues for a role of organophosphorus insecticides in HCL among nonsmoking farmers and shows an unexpected association with forage growing. No evidence of an association with phenoxyacetic acids, triazines, or organochlorine insecticides was found.

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