Self-reported exposure to pesticides in residential settings and risk of breast cancer: a case-control study

Farooq, Umar; Joshi, Monika; Nookala, Vinod; Cheriyath, Pramil; Fischman, Daniel; Graber, Nora J.; Stellman, Steven D.; Muscat, Joshua

Background: Pesticides are widely used in households to control insects and weeds. Several studies over the past decades have examined the possible relationship of serum concentration of organochlorine pesticides and the development of breast cancer. However, little data exists regarding an association between self-reported, residential exposure to pesticides and breast cancer risk. We therefore present a case-control study examining self-reported exposure to household pesticides with regard to associated risk of breast cancer. Methods: This study was conducted in the two largest hospitals serving Eastern Queens county (New York City) and the two New York State counties that make up Long Island. It included 1205 patients (447 cases and 758 controls). Cases were defined as women with newly diagnosed breast cancer or carcinoma in-situ, while controls included women with benign breast diseases or those undergoing non-breast related surgery. All patients were asked a series of questions to determine their pesticide exposure, including the type of pesticide, location of exposure (inside vs. outside the home), who applied the pesticide (self vs. a professional) and duration of pesticide use. Logistic regression models were used to estimate unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (OR) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI). Results: The most common pests encountered in participants’ homes were ants, carpenter ants, and cockroaches. The adjusted odds ratios for both self and professionally applied pesticides, specifically against the above mentioned insects, with regard to breast cancer risk were 1.25 (95% CI: 0.79-1.98) and 1.06 (95% CI: 0.65-1.73), respectively. Similarly, odds ratios and confidence intervals were calculated for other types of pesticides. Conclusions: Overall, the results of our study did not show an association between self-reported exposure to pesticides and breast cancer risk. Future studies, utilizing a larger sample size and more specific detail on time frame of pesticide exposure, are needed to further explore this question.


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Environmental Health

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August 7, 2014


From Steven Stellman: This is a secondary analysis of data from the American Health Foundation hospital-based case-control study of breast cancer on Long Island. Other publications from this series relate breast cancer risks to measured pesticide and PCB levels in blood and adipose tissue.