Pesticide use and breast cancer risk among farmers' wives in the agricultural health study

Am J Epidemiol. 2005 Jan 15;161(2):121-35. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwi022.


The authors examined the association between pesticide use and breast cancer incidence among farmers' wives in a large prospective cohort study in Iowa and North Carolina. Participants were 30,454 women with no history of breast cancer prior to cohort enrollment in 1993-1997. Information on pesticide use and other information was obtained by self-administered questionnaire at enrollment from the women and their husbands. Through 2000, 309 incident breast cancer cases were identified via population-based cancer registries. Rate ratios were calculated for individual pesticides using Poisson regression, controlling for confounding factors. Breast cancer standardized incidence ratios were 0.87 (95% confidence interval: 0.74, 1.02) for women who reported ever applying pesticides and 1.05 (95% confidence interval: 0.89, 1.24) for women who reported never applying pesticides. There was some evidence of increased risk associated with use of 2,4,5-trichloro-phenoxypropionic acid (2,4,5-TP) and possibly use of dieldrin, captan, and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-TP), but small numbers of cases among those who had personally used the pesticides precluded firm conclusions. The authors found no clear association of breast cancer risk with farm size or washing of clothes worn during pesticide application, but risk was modestly elevated among women whose homes were closest to areas of pesticide application. Further follow-up of this cohort should help clarify the relation between pesticide exposure and breast cancer risk.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Iowa
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reproductive History
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouses*


  • Pesticides