Growing up with livestock raises risk of haematological cancers

GROWING up on a farm with livestock is associated with an increased risk of haematological cancer in adulthood, a study of New Zealand death records shows.

Researchers found that people who grew up on a poultry farm had a nearly threefold increased risk of later dying from leukaemia, multiple myeloma, or non-Hodgkin or Hodgkin lymphoma, although this was based on a small number of cases.

Early exposure to any livestock farm conferred a 22% increased risk, whereas growing up on a crop farm did not increase risk, possibly due to the lack of pesticide use when most subjects were growing up in the 1940s.

Analysis of the records of 94,000 deaths, including 3000 haematological cancer cases, suggested a possible role of viruses or other biological exposures in modulating the immune system, the researchers concluded.

Occup Environ Med 2011; on line 27 July