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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard Finds Exposure to Pesticides in Childhood Linked to Cancer

Young children who are exposed to insecticides inside their homes may be slightly more at risk for developing leukemia or lymphoma during childhood, according to a meta-analysis by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers.

The article was published online September 14 in Pediatrics and appears in the October 2015 print issue.

“We don’t know ‘how much’ exposure it takes, or if there’s a critical window in development,” Dr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu, senior author and associate professor of environmental exposure biology at Harvard Chan School, said September 14 in U.S. News & World Report. “Is the window during pregnancy? Or even before pregnancy? That will take a much deeper investigation,” he said.

Lead author Dr. Mei Chen, research associate in the department of environmental health, Dr. Lu, and colleagues examined 16 studies in the scientific literature for a possible association between residential pesticide exposures during childhood and childhood cancers. The children exposed to indoor insecticides were at a higher risk of childhood cancers, including leukemia, acute leukemia, and lymphoma, but not childhood brain tumors. The risk increased with the frequency of insecticide use, the authors found. They did not find a cancer link to outdoor insecticides. Read more