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Pesticides Tied to Prostate Cancer

Routine Pesticide Use May Raise Prostate Cancer Risk
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WebMD Health News

Aug. 20, 2003 -- Men who routinely work with pesticides may have a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer than others.

New research shows men whose jobs expose them to high levels of pesticides have a 13% higher risk of prostate cancer than whose with low levels of pesticide use.

The findings are based on a re-analysis of 22 studies on pesticide use and prostate cancer risk published between 1995 and 2001.

The researchers were unable to confirm that the actual pesticide exposure was what led to the increased prostate cancer risk. However, the increase in prostate cancer found by pooling the studies together may have important public health implications, they say.

Pesticides and the Prostate

Researcher G. Van Maele-Fabry of Ghent University in Belgium and colleagues say one problem with many of the individual studies on pesticide use and prostate cancer risk is that they did not take into consideration other factors that affect prostate cancer risk such as ethnic origin and family history of the disease.

In addition, the causes of prostate cancer are not precisely known, which makes drawing any conclusions about the link between pesticide use and prostate cancer risk difficult.

The study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, shows the risk of prostate cancer was higher among pesticide applicators than farmers and other occupations that involve pesticide use.

Previous research suggests that farmers may have a lower prostate cancer risk due to lower prevalence of smoking, lower alcohol use, dietary habits, and higher levels of physical activity.

The study shows the pooled prostate cancer risk estimates from North American studies were higher than those conducted in Europe. But overall pesticide use does not differ much between the two regions.

Researchers say that suggests that pesticide use may interact with American lifestyle factors, such as high-fat diets and high rates of obesity, to increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Although the findings aren't conclusive, researchers say they once again stress the need to limit exposure to pesticides, and future studies should focus on finding more reliable ways to estimate actual pesticide exposure.

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