Phenoxy herbicides, soft-tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma: a systematic review of evidence from cohort and case–control studies

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Phenoxy herbicides have been used widely in agriculture, forestry, parks and domestic gardens. Early studies linked them with soft-tissue sarcoma (STS) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), but when last reviewed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1986, the evidence for human carcinogenicity was limited.

Sources of data

We searched Medline and Embase, looking for cohort or case–control studies that provided data on risk of STS and/or NHL in relation to phenoxy herbicides, and checked the reference lists of relevant publications for papers that had been missed.

Areas of agreement, areas of controversy

The extensive evidence is not entirely consistent, and a hazard of STS or NHL cannot firmly be ruled out. However, if there is a hazard, then absolute risks must be small.

Growing points, areas timely for developing research

Extended follow-up of previously assembled cohorts may be the most efficient way of further reducing uncertainties.

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