Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2005;31(2):89-96    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.855

Indicators of mancozeb exposure in relation to thyroid cancer and neural tube defects in farmers’ families

by Nordby K-C, Andersen A, Irgens LM, Kristensen P

Objectives The fungicide mancozeb has been suspected of causing thyroid cancer and neural tube defects. The aim of the study was to investigate associations of indicators of mancozeb exposure with thyroid cancer and neural tube defects in farmers’ families.

Methods National registers in Norway, identifying 105 403 female and 131 243 male farmers, born in 1925–1971, and their 300 805 children available for analyses, born in 1952–1991, were cross-linked with national agricultural censuses, 1969–1989, and the population register. Neural tube defects (ICD-8 740–742) at birth among the 102 703 children conceived between May 1973 and April 1991 were identified in the medical birth register. Likewise thyroid cancer (ICD-7 194) was identified in the cancer register through 2000. Data on farm production and fungal forecasts (humid and temperate weather conditions) in 1973–1990, obtained from agricultural censuses and meteorological measurement stations, respectively, served as the mancozeb exposure indicators. The adjusted rate ratio or prevalence ratio (PR) estimates with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were computed in a Poisson regression analysis.

Results Neural tube defects (131 cases, prevalence 12.8/10 000 births) was moderately associated with potato cultivation (PR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1–2.3) and paternal work of >500 hours/year (PR 1.6, 95% CI 1.1–2.5). Altogether 319 thyroid cancer cases were identified: 141 in female farmers (incidence 10.2/100 000 person-years), 79 in male farmers (incidence 3.2/100 000 person-years), and 99 in offspring (female and male incidence 3.4 and 0.6/100 000 person-years, respectively). Mancozeb exposure was not associated with thyroid cancer.

Conclusions A moderate association seems to exist between mancozeb exposure and neural tube defects, but not between mancozeb exposure and thyroid cancer.