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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note/CA Cancer Registry

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on a recent survey in California which has found that farm workers are at far greater risk for certain cancers than the general population.


CURWOOD: Coming up, property rights are in the news again, thanks to a referendum in Oregon. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.


TOOMEY: California farm workers are much more likely to develop certain types of cancer compared to the general population. That’s the finding of a study done by the California Cancer Registry.

Researchers there used the membership list of the United Farm Workers of America, the union that represents the more than 140,000 mainly Latino workers. They compared those names to those found in The California Cancer Registry, a database of almost all cancer diagnoses in the state.

When compared to the California Latino population as a whole, farm workers had an almost 60% greater risk for leukemia, a 63% greater risk for cervical cancer, and close to a 70% greater risk for stomach and uterine cancer.

Researchers don’t know why this is so but say occupational exposure to pesticides may explain some of the findings. Previous studies have found an association between exposure to certain pesticides and elevated risk for leukemia.

On the other hand, the risk of uterine cancer, for instance, may be elevated because farm workers might have fewer hysterectomies. The study also found a lower risk of breast and colon cancer among farm workers. The researchers say, in their follow-up study, they’ll take detailed personal histories from the workers including types of pesticides they were exposed to and for how long. That’s this week’s Health Note. I’m Diane Toomey.


CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.




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