Article Text

Cancer incidence and mortality in a historical cohort of Australian pest control workers
  1. E MacFarlane,
  2. G Benke,
  3. A Del Monaco,
  4. M R Sim
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Ewan MacFarlane, Monash Centre for Occupational & Environmental Health (MonCOEH), Department of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, The Alfred Hospital, Commercial Road, Melbourne Victoria 3004, Australia; Ewan.MacFarlane{at}


Objectives: To determine the rates of mortality and incident cancer in a historical cohort of pest control operators.

Methods: A retrospective cohort was assembled from former state government occupational health surveillance programmes. This cohort was linked to the Australian national registries of cancer and mortality and the results were compared with the general Australian population rates.

Results: 125 deaths and 89 incident cancers were found during the periods of observation (mortality 1983–2004 and cancer 1983–2002). Overall cancer incidence and mortality rates were not found to be significantly different from the general population. Among the specific causes of death, suicide (standardised mortality ratio; SMR 1.78; 95% CI 1.12 to 2.83) and unintentional falls (SMR 4.57; 95% CI 1.72 to 12.19) were significantly in excess, although the latter was based on only 4 deaths. Melanoma was the only specific incident cancer found significantly in excess (standardised incidence ratio 1.56; 95% CI 1.03 to 2.37).

Conclusions: Pest control workers have overall mortality and cancer rates similar to the general population. Excess rates of incident melanoma and intentional self-poisoning mortality are of concern and warrant further investigation. Follow-up of this cohort as its members age, will provide more insight into these possible associations.

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  • Funding The research project on which this paper is based was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia). EM is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Public Health Postgraduate Scholarship. GB is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Award.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted under the approval of the Monash University Standing Committee on Ethics in Research Involving Humans. Linkage to the registries was approved by the AIHW Ethics Committee and access to the NCSCH was also approved by each of the eight Australian state and territory cancer registries.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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