Background: The incidence of testicular germ cell tumors (TGCT), the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 45 years, has doubled over the last 30 years in developed countries. Reasons remain unclear but a role of environmental factors, especially during critical periods of development, is strongly suspected. Reliable data on environmental exposure during this critical time period are sparse. Little is known on whether it could be a combined effect of early and later-life exposures.
Methods/design: Our research aims to study the association between TGCT risk and pesticide exposures (domestic, occupational and environmental) during critical time periods of development and combined early and later-life exposures. The study design, developed during a 2-year pilot study, is a multicenter case-control study of 500 cases (ascertained through histology) and 1000 fertile/fecund controls recruited through 21 French 'Centres d'Etude et de Conservation des Œufs et de Sperme humain' (CECOS). Trained professional interviewers interview the subjects and their mothers by phone. Using a geographic information system developed and tested for application in this study design, environmental pesticides exposure assessment is based on life-time residential history. Occupational pesticides exposures are assessed by an industrial hygienist based on parents' occupations and tasks. Exposures during the prenatal period, early childhood and puberty are focused. A blood sample is collected from each participant to assess genetic polymorphisms known to be associated with TGCT risk, as well as to explore gene-environment interactions.
Discussion: The results of our study will contribute to better understanding the causes of TGCT and the rapid increase of its incidence. We explore the effect of combined early and later-life pesticides exposure from multiple sources, as well as potential gene-environment interactions that have until now been rarely studied for TGCT. Our design allows future pooled studies and the bio-bank allows additional genetic or toxicological analyses.