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Think Twice Before Using Pesticides: Strong Link Found with Pre-Cancerous Condition

Wednesday, July 15, 2009 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: pesticides, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Just how dangerous are pesticides? No one knows the full answer to that question yet, but research is revealing that exposure to these toxins is clearly a bigger health risk than most people realize. For example, Natural News recently reported on the strong evidence suggesting pesticides causes Parkinson's disease (http://www.naturalnews.com/026177_disease_Pa...) and that children who live in homes where pesticides are used are twice as likely to have brain cancer (http://www.naturalnews.com/026155_pesticides...). And now comes even more bad news for people who use pesticides.

A new National Cancer Institute (NCI) study just published in Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology, has found for the first time that applying pesticides doubles the risk of developing an abnormal blood condition called MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance). This disorder is characterized by an abnormal level of a plasma protein and requires lifelong monitoring with blood tests. The reason? MGUS can lead to the painful cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow known as multiple myeloma.

The NCI research involved a study of 678 individuals, culled from a U.S. Agricultural Health Study of over 50,000 farmers who had worked with pesticides. The ages of the study participants ranged from 30 to 94, with an average age of 60. They all lived in either North Carolina or Iowa and were licensed to apply restricted-use pesticides. The research subjects were asked to fill out questionnaires to assess their occupational exposure to a wide range of pesticides and to document how long they had used pesticides. They also answered questions about the pesticide application methods they used, as well as whether they wore protective gear while applying the chemicals.

Information was also obtained about the participants' family history of cancer and their smoking and alcohol usage along with other basic health and medical data. If any research subject had a history of a lymphoproliferative malignancy, such as multiple myeloma or lymphoma, they were excluded from the study. Then, each year for five years the rate of cancer incidence and deaths in the research subject group were documented. At the end of the five year study, interviews were conducted to update the information about participants' occupational exposures, medical histories, and lifestyle factors.

The NCI research team took blood samples from the research subjects and evaluated them for MGUS. No MGUS cases were observed among those who were younger than 50. However, the prevalence of MGUS in those older than 50 was 6.8 percent. And when that figure was compared to a group of men from the general population in Minnesota who did not work with pesticides, the findings showed that the incidence of MGUS was extraordinarily high among those who applied pesticides. Bottom line: the pesticide group had double the risk of having MGUS, placing them at an elevated risk for myeloma.

"Previously, inconclusive evidence has linked agricultural work to an increased multiple myeloma risk. Our study is the first to show an association between pesticide exposure and an excess prevalence of MGUS," said lead author and NCI scientist Ola Landgren, MD, PhD, in a statement to the media. "This finding is particularly important given that we recently found in a large prospective cancer screening study that virtually all multiple myeloma patients experienced a MGUS state prior to developing myeloma."

What pesticides appear to be the most dangerous? Of the chemicals studied, a significantly increased risk of MGUS was found among the people who used the insecticide dieldrin, the fumigant mixture of carbon tetrachloride and carbon disulfide, and the fungicide chlorothalonil. These pesticides increased the MGUS risk 5.6, 3.9, and 2.4 times, respectively.

"As several million Americans use pesticides, it's important that the risks of developing MGUS from the use of pesticides is known," added senior study author and NCI investigator Michael Alavanja, DrPH, in the media statement.

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