A case-control study of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and exposure to pesticides

Cancer. 1999 Mar 15;85(6):1353-60. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0142(19990315)85:6<1353::aid-cncr19>3.0.co;2-1.


Background: The incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) has increased in most Western countries during the last few decades. Immunodefective conditions are established risk factors. In 1981, the authors reported an increased risk for NHL following exposure to certain pesticides. The current study was designed to further elucidate the importance of phenoxyacetic acids and other pesticides in the etiology of NHL.

Methods: A population-based case-control study in northern and middle Sweden encompassing 442 cases and twice as many controls was performed. Exposure data were ascertained by comprehensive questionnaires, and the questionnaires were supplemented by telephone interviews. In total, 404 cases and 741 controls answered the questionnaire. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed with the SAS statistical data program.

Results: Increased risk for NHL was found for subjects exposed to herbicides (odds ratio [OR], 1.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0-2.5) and fungicides (OR, 3.7; 95% CI, 1.1-13.0). Among herbicides, the phenoxyacetic acids dominated (OR, 1.5; 95% CI, 0.9-2.4); and, when subclassified, one of these, 4-chloro-2-methyl phenoxyacetic acid (MCPA), turned out to be significantly associated with NHL (OR, 2.7; 95% CI, 1.0-6.9). For several categories of herbicides, it was noted that only exposure during the most recent decades before diagnosis of NHL was associated with an increased risk of NHL. Exposure to impregnating agents and insecticides was, at most, only weakly related to NHL.

Conclusions: Exposure to herbicides in total, including phenoxyacetic acids, during the decades before NHL diagnosis resulted in increased risk for NHL. Thus, the risk following exposure was related to the latency period. Fungicides also increased the risk for NHL when combined, but this group consisted of several different agents, and few subjects were exposed to each type of fungicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2-Methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic Acid / adverse effects
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Herbicides / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / chemically induced*
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Phenoxyacetates / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden / epidemiology


  • Herbicides
  • Pesticides
  • Phenoxyacetates
  • 2-Methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic Acid