Pesticides and childhood cancer

Environ Health Perspect. 1998 Jun;106 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):893-908. doi: 10.1289/ehp.98106893.


Children are exposed to potentially carcinogenic pesticides from use in homes, schools, other buildings, lawns and gardens, through food and contaminated drinking water, from agricultural application drift, overspray, or off-gassing, and from carry-home exposure of parents occupationally exposed to pesticides. Parental exposure during the child's gestation or even preconception may also be important. Malignancies linked to pesticides in case reports or case-control studies include leukemia, neuroblastoma, Wilms' tumor, soft-tissue sarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and cancers of the brain, colorectum, and testes. Although these studies have been limited by nonspecific pesticide exposure information, small numbers of exposed subjects, and the potential for case-response bias, it is noteworthy that many of the reported increased risks are of greater magnitude than those observed in studies of pesticide-exposed adults, suggesting that children may be particularly sensitive to the carcinogenic effects of pesticides. Future research should include improved exposure assessment, evaluation of risk by age at exposure, and investigation of possible genetic-environment interactions. There is potential to prevent at least some childhood cancer by reducing or eliminating pesticide exposure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Carcinogens / classification*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / classification
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / chemically induced
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / chemically induced
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neuroblastoma / chemically induced
  • Paternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Paternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / classification
  • Research Design / standards
  • Sarcoma / chemically induced
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wilms Tumor / chemically induced


  • Carcinogens
  • Pesticides