Parental occupational exposure to pesticides and risk of childhood cancer in Switzerland: a census-based cohort study

Astrid Coste, Helen D. Bailey, Mutlu Kartal-Kaess, Raffaele Renella, Aurélie Berthet, Ben D. Spycher

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11 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Pesticide exposure is a suspected risk factor for childhood cancer. We investigated the risk of developing childhood cancer in relation to parental occupational exposure to pesticides in Switzerland for the period 1990-2015. METHODS: From a nationwide census-based cohort study in Switzerland, we included children aged < 16 years at national censuses of 1990 and 2000 and followed them until 2015. We extracted parental occupations reported at the census closest to the birth year of the child and estimated exposure to pesticides using a job exposure matrix. Cox proportional hazards models, adjusted for potential confounders, were fitted for the following outcomes: any cancer, leukaemia, central nervous system tumours (CNST), lymphoma, non-CNS solid tumours. RESULTS: Analyses of maternal (paternal) exposure were based on approximately 15.9 (15.1) million-person years at risk and included 1891 (1808) cases of cancer, of which 532 (503) were leukaemia, 348 (337) lymphomas, 423 (399) CNST, and 588 (569) non-CNS solid tumours. The prevalence of high likelihood of exposure was 2.9% for mothers and 6.7% for fathers. No evidence of an association was found with maternal or paternal exposure for any of the outcomes, except for "non-CNS solid tumours" (High versus None; Father: adjusted HR [95%CI] =1.84 [1.31-2.58]; Mother: 1.79 [1.13-2.84]). No evidence of an association was found for main subtypes of leukaemia and lymphoma. A post-hoc analysis on frequent subtypes of "non-CNS solid tumours" showed positive associations with wide CIs for some cancers. CONCLUSION: Our study suggests an increased risk for solid tumours other than in the CNS among children whose parents were occupationally exposed to pesticides; however, the small numbers of cases limited a closer investigation of cancer subtypes. Better exposure assessment and pooled studies are needed to further explore a possible link between specific childhood cancers types and parental occupational exposure to pesticides.

Original languageEnglish
Article number819
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2020


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