Farmworkers who have a high pesticide exposure event – such as a spill – are more likely to experience molecular changes to their DNA that may lead to prostate and other cancers, according to a large study of pesticide applicators.
Environmental Health News reports the research, part of the ongoing US Agricultural Health Study that is monitoring the health of more than 57,000 private and commercial pesticide applicators, adds to growing evidence that high exposure to certain pesticides may spur prostate and other cancers in people handling the chemicals.
Researchers have long suspected pesticides may play a role in the elevated cancer rates among farmers and others who apply pesticides. Earlier findings of the same study have reported higher rates of prostate cancer linked to pesticide exposures.
The current paper, published in the journal Environmental and Molecular Mutagensis, included 596 male pesticide applicators. It found men who experienced a “high pesticide exposure event,” meaning a spill or other accident that would leave them highly exposed, were more likely to have elevated levels of DNA methylation in a gene linked with increased prostate cancer risk.
This type of exposure to pesticides would be “unusually high,” said lead author Dr Jennifer Rusiecki, an assistant professor of medicine at Uniformed Services University in Maryland, USA.
- JA Rusiecki and others. High pesticide exposure events and DNA methylation among pesticide applicators in the agricultural health study, Environmental and Molecular Mutagensis, volume 58, number 1, pages 19-29, January 2017.