USC researchers have documented a link between residential exposure to certain pesticides and prostate cancer, providing evidence that living near agricultural fields could be sufficient to increase cancer risk. The study is the first to address residential instead of occupational exposure and has garnered significant media attention (see “USC study tackles pesticide-prostate cancer link”). The story behind the story is the use of a novel geographic information systems approach to track pesticide exposure.
The researchers, including SSI Faculty Affiliate Dr. Myles Cockburn and SSI Associate Director Dr. Daniel Goldberg, obtained and managed both pesticide application data and the residential history of study subjects in a Geographic Information System. Advanced geocoding techniques were used to link pesticide applications with proximity of residences over time for each subject. The study took advantage of the highly accurate and rapid geocoding system developed by Dr. Goldberg (see webgis.usc.edu) augmented with manual resolution of addresses.
The study documented an association between the probability of being diagnosed with prostate cancer and exposure to two pesticide classes known to have prostate-specific biological effects (methyl bromide and a group of organochlorines) but did not find a similar relationship for other compounds investigated as controls.
The study, published this week in the American Journal of Epidemiology, is titled “Prostate Cancer and Ambient Pesticide Exposure in Agriculturally Intensive Areas in California.”