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Exposure to pesticides and risk of childhood cancer: a meta-analysis of recent epidemiological studies
  1. Florence Vinson1,
  2. Maysaloun Merhi1,
  3. Isabelle Baldi2,
  4. Hélène Raynal3,
  5. Laurence Gamet-Payrastre1
  1. 1INRA, TOXALIM, Toulouse, France
  2. 2LSTE, ISPED, University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France
  3. 3INRA, BIA, Toulouse, France
  1. Correspondence to Laurence Gamet-Payrastre, INRA, UMR1089 Xénobiotiques, 180 Chemin de Tournefeuille, BP93173, F-31027 Toulouse Cedex 3, France; Laurence.Payrastre{at}


Objectives The authors performed a meta-analysis of case–control and cohort studies to clarify the possible relationship between exposure to pesticides and childhood cancers.

Methods Two cohort and 38 case–control studies were selected for the first meta-analysis. After evaluating homogeneity among studies using the Cochran Q test, the authors calculated a pooled meta-OR stratified on each cancer site. The authors then constructed a list of variables believed to play an important role in explaining the relation between parental exposure to pesticide and childhood cancer, and performed a series of meta-analyses. The authors also performed a distinct meta-analysis for three cohort studies with RR data.

Results Meta-analysis of the three cohort studies did not show any positive links between parental pesticide exposure and childhood cancer incidence. However, the meta-analysis of the 40 studies with OR values showed that the risk of lymphoma and leukaemia increased significantly in exposed children when their mother was exposed during the prenatal period (OR=1.53; 95% CI 1.22 to 1.91 and OR=1.48; 95% CI 1.26 to 1.75). The risk of brain cancer was correlated with paternal exposure either before or after birth (OR=1.49; 95% CI 1.23 to 1.79 and OR=1.66; 95% CI 1.11 to 2.49). The OR of leukaemia and lymphoma was higher when the mother was exposed to pesticides (through household use or professional exposure). Conversely, the incidence of brain cancer was influenced by the father's exposure (occupational activity or use of household or garden pesticides).

Conclusion Despite some limitations in this study, the incidence of childhood cancer does appear to be associated with parental exposure during the prenatal period.

  • Meta-analysis
  • pesticide
  • childhood cancer
  • toxicology
  • cancer
  • leukaemia
  • agriculture

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  • Competing interests None.

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