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Pesticide linked to serious blood disorder

Wednesday June 17th, 2009

By Jane Collingwood

People who are exposed to certain pesticides may be at a raised risk of an abnormal blood condition called MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance).

This condition involves a build-up of abnormal bone marrow plasma cells. It can sometimes transform into multiple myeloma or similar forms of cancer.

Dr Ola Landgren of the US National Cancer Institute, and colleagues, explain that multiple myeloma has also been linked with pesticides. However, the link so far is inconclusive, they write in the journal Blood.

The team gathered information on 678 men aged 30 to 94 years, who had used pesticide applicators. Their risk of MGUS was compared against that for 9,469 comparable men without pesticide exposure. Factors such as age and education level were taken into account.

For the men under 50 years, risk of MGUS was 1.8 times higher with pesticide exposure.

The risk was 5.6 times higher for men using the chlorinated insecticide dieldrin, 3.9 times higher with the fumigant mixture carbon-tetrachloride/carbon disulfide, and 2.4 times higher with the fungicide chlorothalonil.

"In summary, the prevalence of MGUS among pesticide applicators was twice that in a population-based sample of men, adding support to the hypothesis that specific pesticides are etiologically linked to myelomagenesis," the authors conclude.

Dr Landgren commented: "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.

"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."

Landgren, O. et al. Pesticide exposure and risk of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) in the Agricultural Health Study. Blood, Vol. 113, June 18, 2009.

Tags: Cancer | General Health | Menís Health | North America

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