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Rebecca Olin, MD, MS


Does Exposure to Occupational Pesticides Increase the Risk for AML?

By: Vanessa A. Carter, BS
Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2021

The use of pesticides worldwide has been increasing steadily for more than 20 years, along with pesticide-related non-Hodgkin lymphoma rates. Olivier Herault, MD, PhD, of Tours University Hospital, France, and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 14 studies to determine whether there is a link between exposure to occupational pesticides and the risk of developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Published in Scientific Reports, this study suggested that there may be an association between these two factors.

“This result reinforces the results of cohort studies published 12 years ago and is a new argument to consider acute myeloid leukemia as an occupational illness in patients with demonstrated occupational pesticide exposure,” the study authors concluded.

Focusing on pesticides, demographics, and chemical exposure data, the researchers identified 3,955 patients with AML and 9,948 individuals for the control group from MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases. Most participants with AML were from multicentric studies, whereas control sources were from population- and hospital-based studies. A total of 563 patients with AML and 1,219 individuals from the control group reported exposure to occupational pesticides through either self-administered questionnaires or peer-to-peer reviews.

The overall odds ratio estimate from this meta-analysis was 1.51, which combined both adjusted and unadjusted ratios using a random-effects model. This result was similar to cohort studies, which had an odds ratio of 1.55. When geographic zone subgroups were compared, Asia, followed by North America and Europe, displayed the strongest association between risk of AML and exposure to occupational pesticides. Additionally, the populations included after 1995 showed notably higher odds ratios, most likely due to the increased usage of pesticides since the 1990s.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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