Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oem.2011.065110
  • Original article

Farming, growing up on a farm, and haematological cancer mortality

Press Release
  1. Neil Pearce1,2
  1. 1Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2Department of Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Andrea ‘t Mannetje, Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand; a.mannetje{at}
  • Accepted 8 June 2011
  • Published Online First 27 July 2011


Objectives Occupation as a farmer has been associated with increased risks of haematological cancers in adults. This study aimed to examine whether farm exposures in childhood contribute to these risks, by using parental occupation in farming as a proxy for growing up on a farm.

Methods New Zealand death records (1998-2003) of persons aged 35-85 were extracted (n=114 289). For 82.3% usual occupation and the occupation of at least one of the parents could be coded (n=94 054). Unconditional logistic regression analyses included 3119 haematological cancer deaths (cases) and 90 935 deaths from other causes (controls). ORs for farming and growing up on a farm were adjusted for each other, year of birth, age at death, socio-economic status, Māori ethnicity, immigration status and sex.

Results Growing up on a livestock farm was positively associated with haematological cancer (OR 1.22, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.41), particularly for poultry farms (OR 2.99, 95% CI 1.44 to 6.21), while growing up on a crop farm was not (OR 0.81, 95% CI 0.64 to 1.03). Crop farming in adulthood was associated with an increased haematological cancer risk (OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.13 to 1.96), while livestock farming was not (OR 0.80, 95% CI 0.63 to 1.00), except for beef cattle farming (OR 2.99, 95% CI 1.28 to 7.00). These results did not change appreciably when different control groups with different causes of death were used.

Conclusions These results could suggest a role for early life biological exposures in the development of haematological cancers.


  • Funding This work was supported by a Programme Grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC 02/159).

  • Competing interests None.

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

Free sample

This recent issue is free to all users to allow everyone the opportunity to see the full scope and typical content of OEM.
View free sample issue >>

Don't forget to sign up for content alerts so you keep up to date with all the articles as they are published.

Navigate This Article