Cancer incidence in the United Farmworkers of America (UFW), 1987-1997

Am J Ind Med. 2001 Nov;40(5):596-603. doi: 10.1002/ajim.1125.


Background: The purpose of this study was to evaluate cancer incidence in the membership a largely Hispanic farmworker labor union in California, the United Farmworkers of America (UFW) and to examine cancer-site specific distributions as well as histology and stage of cancer at diagnosis in this group.

Methods: An electronic record linkage was conducted between a membership roster of the UFW and the database of the California Cancer Registry, the population-based cancer registry in California for the years 1987-1997. Based upon the results of the linkage, morbidity odds ratios were calculated using the distribution of cancer in the California Hispanic population as the reference to determine if risk of specific cancers was higher or lower in the UFW. Time since first joining the union was evaluated, as was the proportional distribution of histologic subtypes and stage at diagnosis, again comparing the experience of the UFW membership to the California Hispanic population.

Results: Several types of cancer were elevated in the UFW membership in comparison to the California Hispanic population. Morbidity odds ratios and 95% confidence limits were elevated for leukemia (O.R. = 1.59: 95% C.I. = 1.07-2.37), stomach cancer (O.R. = 1.69: 95% C.I. = 1.24-2.27), uterine cervix cancer (O.R. = 1.63: 95% C.I. = 1.11-2.44) and uterine corpus cancer (O.R. = 1.68: 95% C.I. = 1.05-2.67). Brain cancer was also elevated although not significantly so (O.R. = 1.57: 95% C.I. = 0.96-2.53).

Conclusions: Risk of leukemia, stomach, cervix and uterine cancers was elevated in California farmworkers. The histologic distribution of leukemia and brain cancers within the UFW membership did not differ from the distribution in the general California population although small numbers of cancers in the UFW hindered interpretation of these results. Members of the UFW experienced later stage of disease at diagnosis in comparison to California Hispanics for most major cancer sites but not for breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / classification
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Sex Factors
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*