Occupational pesticide exposure increases risk of acute myeloid leukemia: a meta-analysis of case-control studies including 3,955 cases and 9,948 controls

Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 21;11(1):2007. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-81604-x.


The impact of pesticides on health is a major public health concern. A higher risk to develop chronic lymphoid malignancies has been demonstrated to be associated with occupational pesticide exposure (OPE). By contrast, little is known of the impact of OPE on the occurrence of myeloid malignancies especially acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The purpose of this meta-analysis is to summarize data on the association between OPE and AML. A relevant dataset of case-control studies was extracted. Among 6784 references extracted, 14 were selected, representing 3,955 AML patients and 9,948 control subjects diagnosed between 1976 and 2010. An adverse association was found between OPE and AML (OR = 1.51; 95%CI: 1.10-2.08), not affected by sensitivity analyses. Funnel plot asymmetry suggested a publication bias underestimating OR. Stratified analysis showed the association to be driven by studies with: (1) monocentric AML patients and hospital-based control population, (2) Newcastle-Ottawa scale > 6 and the group of studies identified as with the lowest risk, (3) exposure assessment through peer-to-peer interview, (4) diagnosis in North America and Asia and after 1995, (5) restriction to de novo AML. Moreover, the association between OPE and AML was significant with insecticides. These findings broaden the spectrum of pesticide toxicity to myeloid malignancies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Asia
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / chemically induced
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / epidemiology*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • North America
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors


  • Pesticides