Case-control study of multiple myeloma and farming

Br J Cancer. 1986 Sep;54(3):493-500. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1986.202.


A previous case-control study which utilised the occupational information available on the New Zealand Cancer Registry found an increased risk of multiple myeloma in agricultural workers consistent with previous findings in the United States. The findings are now presented for the second phase of the study which involved interviewing 76 cases of multiple myeloma (who had been included in the previous study) together with 315 controls with other types of cancer. The previous finding on an excess of farmers in the case group was confirmed by the interview data (odds ratio = 1.7, 95% confidence limits 1.0-2.9, P = 0.04). There were no significant differences between cases and controls regarding potential exposure to phenoxy herbicides or chlorophenols. There were also no significant differences regarding activities involving potential exposure to other agricultural chemicals, although the odds ratio for fencing work, which may involve exposure to arsenic and sodium pentachlorophenate, was 1.6 (95% confidence limits 0.9-2.7, P = 0.11). The odds ratios were significantly elevated for sheep farming (odds ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence limits 1.0-3.6, P = 0.04) and exposure to beef cattle (odds ratio = 1.7, 95% confidence limits 1.0-2.9, P = 0.05). The odds ratio was also elevated for persons reporting a history of hay fever (odds ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence limits 1.0-3.5, P = 0.05). Overall, these findings suggest that the search for the causes of elevated mortality in farmers from multiple myeloma should be directed to potential causes other than pesticide exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / etiology*
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Chlorophenols / adverse effects
  • Herbicides / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Male
  • Multiple Myeloma / etiology*
  • New Zealand
  • Sheep


  • Chlorophenols
  • Herbicides