High exposure to pesticides leads to genetic changes linked to cancer

Photo credit: Miki Yoshihito Photo credit: Miki Yoshihito

A new study published in the journal Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis has found that high pesticide exposure events are associated with changes in DNA linked with prostate cancer. The study was part of the larger Agricultural Health Study, which seeks to understand occupational effects of pesticide exposure in farm workers and their families from Iowa and North Carolina.  This study sampled DNA (via blood samples) from almost 700 male participants enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study.  Participants were then asked to complete a survey in which they self reported pesticide exposure events. Almost 25 percent of participants reported at least one “unusually high pesticide exposure event.” Participants who reported high exposures were significantly more likely to have elevated genetic changes on portions of DNA specifically linked with increased prostate cancer risk. These results reinforce the argument that even when chemical exposures are not acutely toxic (i.e. don’t result in immediate death or illness), they may still lead to negative health consequences in the future.