OBJECTIVE: To examine cancer mortality by tumour site among local authority pest control officers. METHODS: Prospective mortality study, and follow up to the end of 1994, of 1485 male pest control officers aged between 17 and 69 and employed in 296 local authorities in England and Wales for at least six months between January 1980 and April 1984. Observed numbers of deaths were compared with those expected on the basis of the rates for relevant calendar year, cause, sex, and age specific groups for England and Wales. RESULTS: 200 deaths occurred during the follow up period of which 65 were certified as due to malignant neoplasms. No tumour type showed significantly more deaths than expected. Total all cause, lung cancer, and respiratory disease mortality were significantly lower than expected. CONCLUSIONS: 15 year follow up of a group of men handling a wide range of pesticides did not show any significant risk of cancer. This may be partially explained by the healthy worker effect and also the limited power of the study to detect significant increases in the less common tumours. Further long term follow up of this cohort will continue. Chemical control of pests that can cause human disease and can contaminate food and water has been, and will continue to be, a major public health measure. It is important to ensure that the health of those applying pesticides is not at excess risk. Negative results are important.
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