Epidemiology: Pesticides and the Risk of Breast Cancer

MSKCC Principal Investigator
Lawrence S. Engel, PhD

Co-Principal Investigator
Michael Alavanja, PhD
National Cancer Institute

Study Objectives

  • To identify any increased risk of breast cancer associated with use of specific pesticides.
  • To identify any increased risk of breast cancer related to sources of non-specific pesticide exposure typically found in agricultural communities.

Why Is this Study Important?

Exposure to pesticides by the general population is ubiquitous through diet, occupation, residential use, and other routes. Animal studies and very limited epidemiologic research suggest that certain commonly used pesticides may be risk factors for breast cancer. However, this risk in humans remains unknown or highly uncertain.

Who Is Conducting this Study?

Investigators at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and in the Agricultural Health Study (AHS). The AHS is a prospective cohort study of farmers and their spouses in Iowa and North Carolina and is a collaborative effort of the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Study Overview and Progress

This study includes approximately 31,000 farmers' wives who have been followed up since the mid-1990s, with over 800 incident cases of breast cancer identified through 2006. Detailed pesticide use information was provided by both the women and their husbands at enrollment and in follow-up interviews. Analyses are underway.

Contact Information

Larry Engel