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University of Iowa News Release

April 15, 2004

Agricultural Health Study Receives $5.8 Million Funding Renewal

A landmark study of the potential causes of cancer and other chronic diseases among farmers who use pesticides, their families and commercial pesticide applicators has received an additional five years of funding totaling more than $5.8 million.

Now in its 12th year, the Agricultural Health Study is funded primarily by the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. It also receives support from the University of Iowa Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (EHSRC). The study is based in the Department of Epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health.

"This is the world's largest prospective cohort study of agricultural exposures and adverse health outcomes," said Charles Lynch (left), M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of epidemiology and supervisor of the Iowa branch of the Agricultural Health Study. "In time, it will contribute substantial knowledge regarding the relationship between everyday agricultural exposures, such as pesticides, and chronic disease, such as cancer."

Since 1993, the study has enrolled and examined the health risks of 89,658 agricultural workers in Iowa and North Carolina, including more than 58,000 Iowans. Both states have strong agricultural sectors with diverse production methods, commodities and products. In addition to pesticide use and farming practices, the study also is examining how families' cooking practices and diet may play a role in cancer and other health conditions. The information gathered will be helpful to farmers throughout the United States and in other countries that use modern agricultural technologies.

Current research suggests that while agricultural workers may be healthier than the general U.S. population, they may have higher rates of some cancers, including leukemia, myeloma (cancer of the plasma cell), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and cancers of the lip, stomach, skin, brain and prostate. Other conditions, such as asthma, neurologic disease and adverse reproductive outcomes, may also be related to agricultural exposures.

Many studies, including those conducted by chemical companies to assess the safety of their own products, focus on high doses of pesticides over a short period of time and assess only the short-term effects of those exposures. The Agricultural Health Study aims to better understand the health effects of lower doses over a long period of time. In addition, it seeks to understand the effects of such exposures on women and children.

"Many people, including farmers, their families and physicians, feel that the Agricultural Health Study is one of the most important studies ever conducted of exposures related to farming," Lynch said. "This study will provide information that agricultural workers can use in making decisions about their health and the health of their families."

STORY SOURCE: The University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242

MEDIA CONTACT: Kate Gleeson, 319-384-4277, kate-gleeson@uiowa.edu

PHOTOS/GRAPHICS: Photo of Charles Lynch available at http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/academics/faculty/charles_lynch.html