Agricultural pesticide use and pancreatic cancer risk in the Agricultural Health Study Cohort

Gabriella Andreotti*, Laura E.Beane Freeman, Lifang Hou, Joseph Coble, Jennifer Rusiecki, Jane A. Hoppin, Debra T. Silverman, Michael C.R. Alavanja

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Pancreatic cancer is a rapidly fatal disease that has been linked with pesticide use. Previous studies have reported excess risks of pancreatic cancer with organochlorines such as DDT, however, many other commonly used pesticides have not been examined. To further examine the potential associations between the use of a number of pesticides and pancreatic cancer, we conducted a case-control analysis in the Agricultural Health Study, one of the largest prospective cohorts with over 89,000 participants including pesticide applicators and their spouses in Iowa and North Carolina. This analysis included 93 incident pancreatic cancer cases (64 applicators, 29 spouses) and 82,503 cancer-free controls who completed an enrollment questionnaire providing detailed pesticide use, demographic and lifestyle information. Ever use of 24 pesticides and intensity-weighted lifetime days [(lifetime exposure days) x (exposure intensity score)] of 13 pesticides was assessed. Risk estimates were calculated using unconditional logistic regression controlling for age, smoking, and diabetes. Among pesticide applicators, 2 herbicides (EPTC and pendimethalin) of the 13 pesticides examined for intensity-weighted lifetime use showed a statistically significant exposure-response association with pancreatic cancer. Applicators in the top half of lifetime pendimethalin use had a 3.0-fold (95% CI 1.3-7.2, p-trend = 0.01) risk compared with never users, and those in the top half of lifetime EPTC use had a 2.56-fold (95% CI = 1.1-5.4, p-trend = 0.01) risk compared with never users. Organochlorines were not associated with an excess risk of pancreatic cancer in this study. These findings suggest that herbicides, particularly pendimethalin and EPTC, may be associated with pancreatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2495-2500
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number10
StatePublished - 15 May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Agriculture
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pesticides


Dive into the research topics of 'Agricultural pesticide use and pancreatic cancer risk in the Agricultural Health Study Cohort'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this