Pesticides blamed for some childhood brain cancers

From: Heather Hamlin, Environmental Health News
Published May 8, 2009 10:08 AM

Little is known conclusively about what causes brain cancer in children, but research studies are consistently finding links to prebirth pesticide exposure.

A new study finds that children who live in homes where their parents use pesticides are twice as likely to develop brain cancer versus those that live in residences in which no pesticides are used. Herbicide use appeared to cause a particularly elevated risk for a certain type of cancer.

It is well established that many pesticides cause cancer in animals.

This study highlights a new and compelling reason to avoid or limit pesticide use and take necessary precautions during exposure. It also adds to a growing body of research that finds that pesticide exposure — especially with farm life and pesticide use — might be contributing significantly to this deadly disease.

Brain cancer is the second most common cancer in children, yet why it develops is not clear. Genetics plays a role in some cases, but researchers believe those not due to associated genes are related to environmental factors and exposures.

The authors explain that “parental exposures may act before the child‚ conception, during gestation, or after birth to increase the risk of cancer.” Exposures at each time period may trigger different changes that lead to cancers, such as genetic mutations or changes in gene expression or hormone and immune function.

The study evaluated more than 800 fathers and more than 500 mothers that lived in residential areas in four Atlantic Coast states (Florida, New Jersey, New York (excluding New York City) and Pennsylvania). Researchers match and compare every person that is “exposed” to an “unexposed” person of the same age and status. In this case, more than 400 fathers and 250 mothers of exposed children were included.