Can pesticides cause cancer?
Some people worry that being exposed to pesticides will cause cancer or ask if a pesticide caused cancer for someone they love. These are difficult questions. Many things affect the chance that a person will get cancer.
In general, no one can be sure what causes someone’s cancer. It is only possible to say if being exposed increased that person’s risk of cancer. In general, lowering your exposure to anything that may cause cancer will lower your risk of getting cancer.
Many elements of a person’s life contribute to their risk of cancer. These include age, gender, family history, diet, and more. Another element is exposure to carcinogens. A carcinogen is something that scientists believe can cause cancer. Being exposed to a carcinogen raises a person's risk of cancer. The chance that being exposed to a carcinogen will lead to cancer depends on many things. It depends on the amount someone is exposed to, the length of time they were exposed to it, and how strong its effect is.
Here are some things that affect cancer risk:
"Pesticides" is a very broad term. There are thousands of pesticides. They may control insects, weeds, viruses and germs, fungi, and other pests. Some pesticides show evidence of being carcinogens, while others do not. Some pesticides have not been studied enough to determine if they can cause cancer.
The risk of cancer from a pesticide depends on if it is a carcinogen, how you are exposed, how much you are exposed to, and more. Being exposed to a pesticide that is a carcinogen does not necessarily mean you will get cancer. It only means that your risk is higher than if you were not exposed.
Cancer is complex and studying its causes is difficult. Government agencies and groups of scientists decide if chemicals may cause cancer by looking at a variety of research. They may look at human studies, animal studies, and more.
To do human studies, researchers look at patterns of cancers and exposures in large groups of people. One strength of these studies is that they include real people. However, people are exposed to many different things during their lives and cancer can take many years to develop. This makes it hard to know how much of a chemical people were exposed to. It is also impossible to say that the chemical is the cause of a person’s cancer. This is a weakness of studies on humans.
Studies are also done on laboratory animals. A strength of these studies is that the researchers control what chemicals test animals are exposed to. They also give the animals high doses to see the first signs of cancer. These studies can help researchers understand how different chemicals behave in our bodies. However, humans are different than test animals. Therefore, the effects of a chemical in humans and test animals may be different. This is a weakness of animal studies.
Agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency look at human and animal cancer studies when they conduct pesticide risk assessment. This risk assessment is used to determine how and where pesticides can be used.
Several agencies that study cancer risk have developed cancer classifications for chemicals, including pesticides. They put chemicals into these categories based on the how much evidence of cancer risk there is. Cancer classifications are not the same as the strength of a carcinogen.
These links have cancer classification lists and information about cancer classification created by authoritative groups:
Understanding cancer risk can be complicated. If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email us at email@example.com.