Cancer incidence among glyphosate-exposed pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Jan;113(1):49-54. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7340.


Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide that is one of the most frequently applied pesticides in the world. Although there has been little consistent evidence of genotoxicity or carcinogenicity from in vitro and animal studies, a few epidemiologic reports have indicated potential health effects of glyphosate. We evaluated associations between glyphosate exposure and cancer incidence in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), a prospective cohort study of 57,311 licensed pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina. Detailed information on pesticide use and other factors was obtained from a self-administered questionnaire completed at time of enrollment (1993-1997). Among private and commercial applicators, 75.5% reported having ever used glyphosate, of which > 97% were men. In this analysis, glyphosate exposure was defined as a) ever personally mixed or applied products containing glyphosate; b) cumulative lifetime days of use, or "cumulative exposure days" (years of use times days/year); and c) intensity-weighted cumulative exposure days (years of use times days/year times estimated intensity level). Poisson regression was used to estimate exposure-response relations between glyphosate and incidence of all cancers combined and 12 relatively common cancer subtypes. Glyphosate exposure was not associated with cancer incidence overall or with most of the cancer subtypes we studied. There was a suggested association with multiple myeloma incidence that should be followed up as more cases occur in the AHS. Given the widespread use of glyphosate, future analyses of the AHS will allow further examination of long-term health effects, including less common cancers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agriculture
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glycine / poisoning*
  • Glyphosate
  • Herbicides / poisoning*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Iowa / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Myeloma / epidemiology
  • Multiple Myeloma / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Herbicides
  • Glycine