Cancer risk for farmers in Denmark and Italy was studied by linking occupational census data with incidence of cancer in Denmark and with cancer mortality in Italy. Farmers in the two countries had a consistent risk reduction for cancer of the lung, bladder, small intestine, colon, rectum, and prostate. No excess of stomach cancer was found among farmers in the two countries, which is in agreement with the most recent data from other surveys. The risk of oesophageal cancer was reduced among the Danish and increased among the Italian male farmers. This can probably be explained by differences in alcohol consumption between the Danish and Italian farmers compared with the general population. The risk of brain cancer was significantly reduced among Italian farmers. There was a significant risk reduction for Hodgkin's disease and no excess for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Denmark, whereas in Italy a statistically significant excess risk was found for the first and a slight excess risk for the second of these diseases. The per capita consumption of phenoxy-herbicides between 1950 and 1970 was lower in Italy than in Denmark but treatments were performed mainly by professional applicators in Denmark and by the farmers themselves in Italy. Risk of leukaemia among Italian female farmers was increased. In Denmark, this increase was limited to women who were themselves owners of a farm. Specific occupations in agriculture showing a high risk for cancers of the lymphopoietic system in Denmark mostly entailed contact with animals.
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