Objective: In this study we conducted a meta-analysis of 13 case-control studies that examined the occurrence of hematopoietic cancers in pesticide related occupations in order to undertake a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of a possible relationship.
Methods: Pubmed databases were searched for case-control studies published between 1990 and 2005 investigating the relation between hematopoietic cancers and occupational exposure to pesticides. Fixed and random effect meta-analysis models were used depending on the presence of heterogeneity between studies.
Results: The overall meta-odds ratio obtained after pooling 44 ORs from 13 studies was 1.3 (95% CI: 1.3-1.5). We realized stratified analysis on three different types of hematopoietic cancers (non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), leukemia and multiple myeloma). A significant increased risk of NHL was found (OR = 1.35; 95% CI = 1.2-1.5). Moreover, increased risks of Leukemia (OR = 1.35; 95% CI = 0.9-2) and multiple myeloma (OR = 1.16; 95% CI = 0.99-1.36) were also detected but these results were not statistically significant. Significant heterogeneity existed among the different studies and a publication bias was detected. Therefore, a meta-regression was carried out. Our results showed that a long period of exposure (more than 10 years) provided an increase in the risk of all hematopoietic cancers and for NHL by fractions of 2.18 (95% CI = 1.43-3.35) and 1.65 (95% CI = 1.08-2.51), respectively.
Conclusions: The overall meta-odds ratio suggests that there is a significantly positive association between occupational exposure to pesticides and all hematopoietic cancers as well as NHL. A major limitation of our meta-analysis is the lack of sufficient data about exposure information and other risk factors for hematopoietic cancer (genetic predisposition, ethnic origin, immunodepression...). In addition, data concerning specific subtypes of hematopoietic cancers are often confusing. Thus, future epidemiological studies should undertake a major effort to assess the identity and the level of pesticides exposure and should control for the most likely potential confounders.