Exposure to Farm Crops, Livestock, and Farm Tasks and Risk of Glioma: The Upper Midwest Health Study

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Some studies of brain cancer have found an excess risk for farmers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health previously found no increased glioma risk for ever (vs. never) being exposed to pesticides on a farm among 798 cases and 1,175 population-based controls (adult (ages 18–80 years) nonmetropolitan residents of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin). For this analysis (1995–1998), 288 cases and 474 controls (or their proxies) who had lived on farms at age 18 years or after were asked about exposure to crops, livestock, and farm tasks. Logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios adjusted for age, age group, sex, state, and education. Never immediately washing up (adjusted odds ratio (OR)=3.08, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.78, 5.34) or changing clothes (OR=2.84, 95% CI: 1.04, 7.78) after applying pesticides was associated with increased glioma risk. Living on a farm on which corn, oats, soybeans, or hogs were raised was associated with decreased risk (corn—OR=0.37, 95% CI: 0.20, 0.69; oats—OR=0.63, 95% CI: 0.40, 1.00; soybeans—OR=0.69, 95% CI: 0.48, 0.98; hogs—OR=0.63, 95% CI: 0.43, 0.93). Negative associations may be due to chance or a “healthy farmer” effect. Farmers’ increased risk of glioma may be due to work practices, other activities, or an inverse association with allergies (reported by other investigators).

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