Pesticide Workers Have Less Cancer Says New Study


Credit: Danomyte/Dreamstime

Activists, like those over at the Pesticide Action Network, claim that Americans are experiencing a "cancer epidemic," and vaguely assert that there supposedly is a "growing scientific consensus that environmental contaminants are causing cancer in humans." Of course, the "environmental contaminants" that are allegedly the most worrisome are pesticides.

Earlier this month, a new study by the British government's Health and Safety Laboratory reported that the cancer rate among British pesticide workers is lower than that of the general population. From the report:

There were 1,628 deaths among 59,085 male and 3,875 female pesticide users during the follow-up period. Compared with the population of Great Britain, the pesticide users had lower than expected mortality from all causes, and in particular from all cancers combined, cancers of the digestive organs, cancers of the respiratory system, and non-malignant diseases of the nervous system and sense organs, and of the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems. There was some evidence of excess deaths from multiple myeloma in men and women, and possibly also from testicular cancer.

With regard to the slightly greater rates of multiple myeloma and testicular cancer, the report noted:

There was some evidence of excess deaths from multiple myeloma among men and women, and possibly also some excess of testicular cancer deaths. With the limited data available, it was not possible to investigate whether these were linked with particular jobs, working practices or pesticides.

If the rate of cancer among people who work with pesticides daily is lower, then it is exceedingly unlikely that consumer exposure to trace amounts of pesticides measurably increases their risk of cancer. In any case, the activist claim that U.S. is in the midst of a growing cancer epidemic is false. Cancer incidence rates have been falling since the early 1990s.

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  1. Idiots, it is pretty easy to see what is causing the cancer epidemic.

    People with relatively weak immune systems are no longer dying from Strep, Staph, Tuberculosis, Cholera, Dysentery, etc.

    Basically a large chunk of the population who would have gotten cancer in the bad old days died off before their cancer had the chance to develop, that no longer happens and so cancer rates increase.

    1. Uh,
      “Cancer incidence rates have been falling since the early 1990s.”
      There’s a link in the article.

      1. Yes they have been falling recently, perhaps I should have included scare quotes around the word epidemic to indicate that I didn’t believe that part of their scaremongering either.

        1. “Yes they have been falling recently”

          NO, they’ve been falling since the early 90’s.

          1. To some of us the early nineties still seem fairly recent.

            1. To some of us, the seventies were fairly recent.

              1. Was I there? Can’t remember…

  2. I think I’ll wait until the U.K. forms an Intergovernmental Panel on Chemical Control and it comes out with its comprehensive and not at all political report on the science of pesticides.

  3. I have multiple myeloma, so I know a bit about it. No one has really found any proven causal link for this bone cancer, though there is some correlation with various toxic exposures — but that’s all there is, correlation. Most likely, as in a lot of minor correlations with illnesses, it’s probably just random distribution patterns.

    I know it’s hard for people to come to terms with, but some diseases just happen, and there’s no one to blame, and thus no one to sue.

    1. Sorry about your disease. But good for you for being wise enough to understand the truth and not inventing a truth to fill your psychological need for meaning.

      Other than smoking and asbestos, there are very very few environmental factors that have ever been scientifically proven to cause cancer. And even smoking, the mechanism is not understood. It is just that the correlation is so strong it can’t be denied.

    2. I am really sorry to hear that C. Anacreon.

      You are 100% correct in your implied assertion that people who contract such conditions immediately start looking around for someone to blame and punish.

      RA hit me a decade ago. For a few years I got solicitations from various shysters to sue drug manufacturers/chemical companies/medical practitioners. They can all go fuck themselves.

      It is a bitch, but there you have it. No one gave it to me, it just happened. I dont blame anyone except maybe myself. I have managed to keep it mostly under control, and I hope you have as much success controlling your condition as I have had with mine.

    3. I have multiple myeloma,

      Vitamin D supplementation.…..dicine.pdf

      1. Thanks, I take a lot of Vitamin D and calcium. You kind of have to when you have a cancer that eats your bones away.

        I got the surprise diagnosis after literally waking up in the middle of the night with a broken back. Four broken vertebrae that compressed in my sleep. Ouch!! Took a long time to get better from that one. Oh, and I went from 6’4″ to 6’1″ that day.

        It’s also weird because I’m “only” 52 and most people who get this are well over 70. Still not looking for anyone or thing to blame though!

        Thanks to everyone for the words of support.


  4. So, if we all want to prevent cancer, we should just drink a few cans of raid?

    1. Yes. I guarantee that if you drink a few cans of Raid you will never develop cancer.

  5. From talking to a urologist the risk factors for having testicular cancer are 1. Having testicles 2. Being under 35 years of age. The sample size appeared to be largely male so not really an unusual finding in the study.

    1. A urologist once told me that if you have a prostate you will develop prostate cancer if you live long enough.

      My reply: So prostate cancer will kill me unless something else does?

      She laughed.

      1. Was this pillow talk after the prostate massage?

    2. “From talking to a urologist the risk factors for having testicular cancer are 1. ”

      You’re thinking of prostate cancer.

      1. Nope we were doing an orchiectomy and I asked about risk factors. Once you hit 35 risk for testicular cancer drop dramatically. Suthenboy is correct about prostate CA. If you live long enough we all (men) get it. Luckily robotics have made prostatectomies a lot less nasty.

        1. Misread your post.

          1. No problem

        2. A lot of prostate cancers are also so slow growing that if you are old the surgery is more likely to be your cause of death than the cancer.

  6. I’d also be interested in Avg lifespan and rates of autoimmune, there’s more to life than cancer.

  7. “Cancer incidents have been falling since the early 1990’s.” That will be fun to say when somebody squawks about pesticides in food.

    1. A search for cancer/pesticides will get you tons of hits claiming “X is ‘linked to’ cancer Y” and checking you’ll find there isn’t one bit of evidence; the ‘link’ is fudged statistical data.
      In fact, you’ll often find that one article refers to another which refers to the first.

      1. The formal name for this practice is the “Chomsky citation.”

  8. If there was ever a case in the history of US murder trials where the accused has absolutely 0% chance of getting a fair verdict, this is it:

    Zimmerman, female judge and all female jury

    1. But we dare not say that any man ever doesn’t get a fair shake. One of the most annoying things in the world is when some dumb ass liberal after being confronted with an obvious injustice responds with “oh its just so hard being a white male isn’t it?”.

    2. From early returns, his lawyer has completely fucked up the opening statement. So, he’s probably going to prison, although he may get a mistrial on being represented by an incompetent.

      1. Knock-knock. Who’s there? A horrible defense attorney.

  9. OT:
    I’m getting the Reason Cruise pitch off to the right. Do Welsh and the Jacket get in the ring?

  10. Back in the mid-80’s I went to have lunch in a hospital cafeteria with my then wife who worked there.

    I noticed a card standing up on the table that said ” Recent studies have shown a link between high cholesterol intake and an increased risk or heart attack.”

    I tried to point out to her that it was an extremely vague and nebulous implication and that if they had solid evidence they would not use weasely tactics like that. She completely didnt get it.

    I see that phrase used a lot still, just replace cholesterol intake with boogeyman of your choice and heart attack with anything.

    1. It is the culture of public health people to lie for the common good. Even when they know the risks they are loath to tell the public in real, quantifiable terms. If a particular disease or sickness leads to complications in 20% of the cases, the fact that it ends harmlessly 80% of the time must never be mentioned. Instead, the weasel terms “can lead to” or “may lead to” are deployed so that the public thinks getting the disease means the worst will happen.

      1. Everyone has heard that a glass of red wine is good for you. An article came out recently saying its not the wine but the alcohol that is protective to the heart but they didn’t want to publish it because the public will use it as an excuse to booze it up. That is what researchers think of people in general. You can’t handle the data so we will lie to you for your own good.

        1. Yup. My favorite is the recent scare about drug resistant Gonorrhea. The public health people are out in force saying it is going to be the new HIV. Now HIV has a 95% mortality rate if left untreated. Gonorrhea in contrast has a mortality rate of less than 1% and in 80% of women and 95% of men who get it is naturally cleared form the system without any complications. Most women don’t even know they have it. But not being able to treat it is going to create a new HIV. Better to scare the public into acting right than tell the truth.

          1. “The new herpes” would probably be more accurate, I guess. But so many people already have herpes that that won’t work to be all scary.

            1. It is actually not as bad as “herpes”. Herpes is a virus and never goes away. Gonorrhea is a germ and does clear out of the person’s system even if it does do some damage.

              Of course they have lied about herpes as well. Tons and tons of people have it and don’t know it. Lots of people carry it and never have symptoms. But they never let that part out.

          2. John| 6.24.13 @ 12:28PM |#
            “Yup. My favorite is the recent scare about drug resistant Gonorrhea.”

            Recent? Like boot camp in the ’60s?

      2. Salt is a great example. Salt intake really only affects the blood pressure in about 20% of the population, so the other 80% of us can eat all we want and our kidneys take care of us. But they can find a lot of issues related to salt intake in those 20% of people — leading to health warriors arguing none of us should have any salt. I believe banning as much salt as possible is one of Bloomberg’s next goals.

        How about, finding out if salt is an issue for you, then avoiding canned soups, etc? No, all of us must have totally bland food on the chance we might be one in five.

        Also, the amount of salt put on food from tabletop shakers is negligible compared to what’s already in foods, yet the nannies want to ban the shakers. *sigh*

        1. Cholesterol is another one like that. A certain percentage of the population for whatever reason can’t process it. Some people can process it by the gallon and are never affected by it. It really depends on your genes as much as anything else. But they act like everyone is under equal risk.

          Even with smoking, it leads to premature death in 33% of the people who do it. That is a lot. But so is the 66% of the people who smoke and never are the worse off for it. But good luck finding that little fact in any public health information on smoking.

          1. “66% of the people who smoke and never are the worse off for it.”

            Never the worse off for it is probably a bit generous. But the point that smoking doesn’t give most smokers a disease that directly kills them is valid and worth pointing out.

            1. beat me to it zeb.

            2. “Never the worse off for it is probably a bit generous.”

              Yes, it is. There are several health ‘issues’ that disappeared after I quit.

        2. It is also a good case of abuse of statistics. If everyone reduced salt intake, then it may well be the case that better health outcomes will be a result. SO it looks good if that is all you know. But it ignores the fact that we are well aware that salt is only a problem for 1 in 5.

        3. “Salt is a great example. Salt intake really only affects the blood pressure in about 20% of the population, so the other 80% of us can eat all we want and our kidneys take care of us. ”

          this statement is only true if salt only affects the body in terms of blood pressure, and if that is the case, that the mechanism of damage is the effect on blood pressure and not some other factor.

          which may be the case I don’t really know just pointing out the fallacy.

  11. Wouldn’t people who work with pesticides often take greater precautions to protect themselves from pesticides than normal people?

    1. Like what? Rspirators and suits?

      You think ortho is running around donning all that crap every day?

      1. I’d bet they use respirators pretty regularly, but that on a hot day the suits seem a lot less important.

  12. But it is undeniable that environmental contaminants cause cancer in humans – if the environment is defined as the human body and contaminants are defined as things that cause cancer. I’ll wait for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Center for Science in the Public Interest to tell me what those things are – those guys are supersmart and supercereal. (I’m guessing it’s sugar and fat and meat and processed food and anything that’s advertised on TV or sold by a corporation.)

    1. You know what is really funny about that. A lot of the most toxic substances are in plant matter. Plants have long since evolved ways for dealing with animals who eat them. And one of the ways is to put toxins in their leaves to make it harder for animals to live by eating them. Any vegetable is full of trace amounts of all kinds of toxins. Now, how much those contribute to cancer is any one’s guess. But it is probably a good guess that they do to some degree. It is after all what they are designed to do. This as much as anything accounts for what little evidence there is that pesticides cause cancer. The pesticides are hitching a ride on a fruit or vegetable that has a cancer causing substance in it and getting the blame for it.

      But good luck convincing right thinking public health types vegetarianism causes cancer.

      1. I wonder about the vegetation humans eat though. The vegetables of today have been domesticated over I don’t know how many years. I read that carrots use to be primarily white, but because they were cultivated by the Dutch they select bred orange carrots because that was the national color.

        1. True. But we really didn’t understand the toxins in them until fairly recently. So we didn’t know to breed them out. Also, the affect of them is pretty small.

        2. considering that data consistently shows people who eat veggies and fruits live longer and have better overall health it doesn’t really matter whats in them. At this point anyway hopefully in the future we will have a much better understanding of human and plant biochemistry and health and be able to have superfoods which only have beneficial combinations of chemicals.

      2. It seems likely to me that most cancer is mostly the result of random mutations. If you think about it, it is pretty amazing that it doesn’t happen a whole lot more.

        1. Yes. I also wonder if your general state of health contributes to it developing. Cancer rates keep dropping as our overall health improves.

          1. Seems likely. Better health should mean that your immune system is working better and can better deal with its internal cleanup jobs.

            1. Maybe. It does seem like some people lose the genetic lottery and have multiple problems including cancer. Sometimes it seems just so random and unfair, with young otherwise healthy people getting terrible diseases.

        2. It probably does, it is just that most of the time when a mutated cell forms the body quickly recognizes it as an invader and the immune system cleans it up

          1. That’s what I mean. The immune system is just amazing.

  13. WARNING: This story contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

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