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10 Facts About “Farmer's Cancer”


Throughout their days at work, farmers come in contact with a myriad of chemicals, some completely harmless while others pose a potentially devastating risk. Following a 2015 cancer investigation by the World Health Organization (WHO), the organization reported that “Roundup is probably carcinogenic to humans.” The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) also determined that glyphosate, the non-commercial name for Roundup, meets their criteria for listing it as a probable cause of cancer.

With recent cases calling into question the true safety of products like Monsanto’s Roundup, it’s important to understand as much as possible about “Farmer’s Cancer,” or cancer caused by pesticide exposure.

  1. Types of Cancer: According to the Agricultural Health Study, farming communities have higher rates of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, multiple myeloma, leukemia than other groups.
  2. Chemicals In Question: Along with glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide, OEHHA included three other chemicals in their proposed list of probable carcinogens: malathion, an insecticide also referred to as carbophos, maldison, or mercaptothion in other countries; parathion, an insecticide and acaricide, also referred to as Folidol; tetrachlorvinphos, an insecticide.
  3. Childhood Brain Tumors: Studies show that exposure to pesticides throughout childhood, during pregnancy, and even before conception, increases the risk of brain tumors among children. Increased risk from exposure before conception can affect either parent.
  4. Breast Cancer: The President’s Cancer Panel found that girls exposed to DDT before reaching puberty were five times more likely to develop breast cancer later in life, and exposure to DDT in the womb quadruples the risk of breast cancer.
  5. Ovarian Cancer: Studies have shown that women who work with pesticides have a higher risk of ovarian cancer than women who work in pesticide-free areas.
  6. Prostate Cancer: Studies have shown that men who work with pesticides have a higher risk of prostate cancer than men who work in pesticide-free areas.
  7. Changing Classifications: The EPA originally classified glyphosate as a possible carcinogen based on animal trials, but reinterpretation of those studies lead to the reclassification as non-carcinogenic in 1991 following reported input from Monsanto.
  8. Conflicting Classifications: The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen in 2015, but the EPA apparently reaffirmed its 1991 classification in a report finalized on October 1, 2015 that was only accidentally released to the public on April 29, 2016 before being taken down. According to the EPA, they will re-release their documents once their assessment is finalized.
  9. Monsanto is Fighting Back: Monsanto, the company that generated $4.8 billion in sales from Roundup in 2015, sued California in January of this year in an attempt to stop their product from being labelled as a probable carcinogen. In response to the retracted report from the EPA, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant released a statement, saying that, “No pesticide regulator in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen, and this conclusion by the U.S. EPA once again reinforces this important fact.”
  10. Studies are Ongoing: With the constantly changing carcinogenic classification of pesticides, experts have yet to come to a consensus on the dangers of the chemicals. A major issue facing researchers are immigrant workers, who make up a large portion of the U.S.’s farming workforce, but remain undocumented. California is attempting to solve this issue by recording every cancer victim, regardless of citizenship, in a database. Their occupation and ethnicity is noted, but until other farming-heavy states adopt similar policies researchers may have trouble covering the entire farming workforce.

Domina Law Group is currently representing four Nebraska farmers who claim Roundup gave them non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. We have put together an informational sheet for farmers or anyone in agriculture who may have claims against Roundup or Monsanto.

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