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Women who are regularly exposed to pesticides in the workplace are twice as likely to develop a common form of brain cancer, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Researchers examined the connection between brain cancer and workplace pesticide exposure in 1,400 adults living in the United States. In contrast to relying only on job titles as prior studies on the topic had done, the researchers estimated each participant’s workplace pesticide exposure. A total of 104 women had been exposed to pesticide. Among these, 33 (one-third) had developed brain cancer.
The researchers found that women who had been exposed were two times more likely to develop a variety of brain tumor known as meningioma than women who had not been exposed. There was no connection between chemical exposure and meningioma in men. In addition, the researchers found no connection between exposure and risk of brain cancer in general for men, women, or the general population.
Meningioma is one of the most common forms of brain cancer. It is a slow-growing tumor that develops in the meninges, the tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord. Unlike other varieties of brain tumor, it is more likely to affect women than men. Middle-aged women are the demographic most likely to be affected.
The researchers found that a woman’ risk increased along with the number of years that she had been exposed to pesticides.
The highest exposure tended to be among women who worked in restaurants or grocery stores. The researchers believe that these women were exposed by handling produce that still contained residue of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals.
A number of other studies have linked working on farms or high exposure to pesticides to a variety of brain cancers.