Farmers May Be at Risk of Lung Cancer from Crop-Related Tasks

A new report, using data from the French AGRIculture and CANcer (AGRICAN) study, alludes to associations between lung cancer and several crop-related tasks.[i]

Agricultural workers are exposed to a range of substances that can cause lung diseases. These include pesticides, diesel exhaust fumes, moulds and dust. 

The participants in this study were affiliated with the agricultural health insurance scheme.  Between 2005/06/07 (enrollment on the study) and 2013, there were 897 newly reported lung cancer cases.

Questionnaires were completed on exposures to livestock and crops, as well as other lifestyle factors. Gender, smoking history, and exposure to cattle and horses was accounted for by the researchers.

Winegrowers had a 27% increased risk of adenocarcinoma (cancer that forms in mucus-secreting glands[ii]), though this finding could have been due to chance. 

Moreover, the risk of small cell lung cancer was more than doubled among those who undertook pea growing tasks and was statistically significant among those who had used pesticides.   

Also, the risk of squamous cell carcinoma was increased among those who were involved in the practice of sunflower growing, fruit-tree pruning and pesticide spraying on beets. However, these findings were not statistically significant. 

Further, confirmatory research in advised. Future studies could also look into the exact chemical/biological agents, to which workers are exposed during crop-related tasks, that are responsible for increasing cancer risk.

 

[i]  Boulanger, M. et al. Lung cancer risk and occupational exposures in crop farming: results from the AGRIculture and CANcer (AGRICAN) cohort. Occup Environ Med oemed-2017-104976 (2018). doi:10.1136/oemed-2017-104976  https://oem.bmj.com/content/early/2018/09/04/oemed-2017-104976.full (Accessed 6 September 2018)

[ii] ‘What is Adenocarcinoma?’ (WebMD) https://www.webmd.com/colorectal-cancer/what-is-adenocarcinoma#1> accessed 6 September 2018.