Open Access Research article

Pesticide exposure and lymphohaematopoietic cancers: a case-control study in an agricultural region (Larissa, Thessaly, Greece)

Maria Kokouva1, Nikolaos Bitsolas1, Georgios M Hadjigeorgiou2, George Rachiotis1, Nikolaos Papadoulis3 and Christos Hadjichristodoulou1*

  • * Corresponding author: Christos Hadjichristodoulou

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Medical Faculty, University of Thessaly, Larissa, Greece

2 Department of Neurology, Medical Faculty, University of Thessaly, Larissa, Greece

3 Department of Haematology and Blood Donors, General Hospital of Larissa, Larissa, Greece

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-5

Published: 4 January 2011



The causality of lymphohaematopoietic cancers (LHC) is multifactorial and studies investigating the association between chemical exposure and LHC have produced variable results. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationships between exposure to pesticides and LHC in an agricultural region of Greece.


A structured questionnaire was employed in a hospital-based case control study to gather information on demographics, occupation, exposure to pesticides, agricultural practices, family and medical history and smoking. To control for confounders, backward conditional and multinomial logistic regression analyses were used. To assess the dose-response relationship between exposure and disease, the chi-square test for trend was used.


Three hundred and fifty-four (354) histologically confirmed LHC cases diagnosed from 2004 to 2006 and 455 sex- and age-matched controls were included in the study. Pesticide exposure was associated with total LHC cases (OR 1.46, 95% CI 1.05-2.04), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) (OR 1.87, 95% CI 1.00-3.51) and leukaemia (OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.09-4.20). A dose-response pattern was observed for total LHC cases (P = 0.004), MDS (P = 0.024) and leukaemia (P = 0.002). Pesticide exposure was independently associated with total LHC cases (OR 1.41, 95% CI 1.00 - 2.00) and leukaemia (OR 2.05, 95% CI 1.02-4.12) after controlling for age, smoking and family history (cancers, LHC and immunological disorders). Smoking during application of pesticides was strongly associated with total LHC cases (OR 3.29, 95% CI 1.81-5.98), MDS (OR 3.67, 95% CI 1.18-12.11), leukaemia (OR 10.15, 95% CI 2.15-65.69) and lymphoma (OR 2.72, 95% CI 1.02-8.00). This association was even stronger for total LHC cases (OR 18.18, 95% CI 2.38-381.17) when eating simultaneously with pesticide application.


Lymphohaematopoietic cancers were associated with pesticide exposure after controlling for confounders. Smoking and eating during pesticide application were identified as modifying factors increasing the risk for LHC. The poor pesticide work practices identified during this study underline the need for educational campaigns for farmers.