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Agricultural Health Study - Landmark Studies

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The contents of this section were published in 2003 as part of SEER's 30th Anniversary celebration.

The Agricultural Health Study (AHS)External Web Site Policy began in 1993 as a collaborative effort to elucidate the health risks posed by exposure to agricultural pesticides and other potential hazards of farm work. Agricultural workers and their families in Iowa and North Carolina were invited to participate in this cohort study. Current enrollment includes 89,658 individuals. For individuals who developed cancer during the study, case information was collected in Iowa from the Iowa Cancer Registry (ICR), a site that has been affiliated with the SEER program since 1973. Although the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry is not affiliated with SEER, this registry represents a racially and ethnically diverse agricultural population within the United States.

In May 2003, the first publication of cancer findings from the AHS appeared. The paper focused on prostate cancer and revealed a slightly increased risk for prostate cancer associated with the use of the fumigant methyl bromide. Risk for prostate cancer increased with higher levels of exposure to methyl bromide. Intensive analysis of personal exposure data to this compound and others will supply scientists with a further understanding of the etiology of prostate cancer. Future publications on other cancer sites in association with exposure data from the AHS will include breast, lung, colon, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and leukemia.

The results from a nested case-control study on high pesticide exposure events (HPEE) indicate that occurrences of unusually high personal exposure to fertilizers and pesticides are occurring at an increased frequency with unknown health impacts. The results from a reliability study pointed to the advantages of using data gathered for epidemiologic purposes in contrast to agriculturally relevant data from other sources not intended to evaluate human health. The results of a study on self-administered exposure questionnaires and sampling provided additional insight into collecting this kind of personal exposure data efficiently and with reasonable results that can be widely applied in a research setting.

Selected References

Alavanja MC, Sandler DP, McMaster SB, Zahm SH, McDonnell CJ, Lynch CF, Pennybacker M, Rothman N, Dosemeci M, Bond AE, Blair A. The Agricultural Health Study. Environ Health Perspect 1996;104 (4):362-369.

Blair A, Tarone R, Sandler D, Lynch CF, Rowland A, Wintersteen W, Steen WC, Samanic C, Dosemeci M, Alavanja MC. Reliability of reporting on life-style and agricultural factors by a sample of participants in the Agricultural Health Study from Iowa. Epidemiology 2002;13:94-99.

Alavanja MC, Samanic C, Dosemeci M, Lubin J, Tarone R, Lynch CF, Knott C, Thomas K, Hoppin JA, Barker J, Coble J, Sandler DP, Blair A. Use of agricultural pesticides and prostate cancer risk in the Agricultural Health Study Cohort. Am J Epidemiol 2003;157:800-814.

For more information, please see http://www.aghealth.org/.External Web Site Policy

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