Objective: Chronic, low-dose exposure to pesticides is suspected to increase the risk for Parkinson's disease (PD), but data are inconclusive.
Methods: We prospectively examined whether individuals exposed to pesticides have higher risk for PD than those not exposed. The study population comprised participants in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort, a longitudinal investigation of US men and women initiated in 1992 by the American Cancer Society. Follow-up surveys were conducted in 1997, 1999, and 2001. The 143,325 individuals who returned the 2001 survey and did not have a diagnosis or symptoms of PD at baseline (1992) were included in the analyses.
Results: Exposure to pesticides was reported by 7,864 participants (5.7%), including 1,956 farmers, ranchers, or fishermen. Individuals exposed to pesticides had a 70% higher incidence of PD than those not exposed (adjusted relative risk, 1.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-2.3; p = 0.002). The relative risk for pesticide exposure was similar in farmers and nonfarmers. No relation was found between risk for PD and exposure to asbestos, chemical/acids/solvents, coal or stone dust, or eight other occupational exposures.
Interpretation: These data support the hypothesis that exposure to pesticides may increase risk for PD. Future studies should seek to identify the specific chemicals responsible for this association.