Thyroid Cancer and Pesticide Use in a Central California Agricultural Area: A Case Control Study



To examine environmental factors that influence risk of thyroid cancer.


We performed a case-control study utilizing thyroid cancer cases from the California Cancer Registry (1999-2012) and controls sampled in a population-based manner. Study participants were included if they were diagnosed with thyroid cancer, lived in the study area at their time of diagnosis, and were ≥35 years of age. Controls were recruited from the same area and eligible to participate if they were ≥35 years of age and had been living in California for at least 5 years prior to the interview. We examined residential exposure to 29 agricultural use pesticides, known to cause DNA damage in vitro or are known endocrine disruptors. We employed a validated geographic information system–based system to generate exposure estimates for each participant.


Our sample included 2067 cases and 1003 controls. In single pollutant models and within a 20-year exposure period, 10 out of 29 selected pesticides were associated with thyroid cancer, including several of the most applied pesticides in the United States such as paraquat dichloride [odds ratio (OR): 1.46 (95% CI: 1.23, 1.73)], glyphosate [OR: 1.33 (95% CI: 1.12, 1.58)], and oxyfluorfen [OR: 1.21 (95% CI: 1.02, 1.43)]. Risk of thyroid cancer increased proportionately to the total number of pesticides subjects were exposed to 20 years before diagnosis or interview. In all models, paraquat dichloride was associated with thyroid cancer.


Our study provides first evidence in support of the hypothesis that residential pesticide exposure from agricultural applications is associated with an increased risk of thyroid cancer.

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