Prostate cancer and exposure to pesticides.




Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Prostate Cancer
Professional Data: Prostate Cancer


The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in men that lies just below the bladder, surrounding the urethra. The function of the prostate is to enhance the movement of sperm cells by secreting a thin, lubricating fluid into the urethra.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer, excluding skin cancer, in men in the United States. It is primarily diagnosed in men over 65, although it may begin much earlier. Some cancers of the prostate are very slow growing, while others behave aggressively. Prostate cancer often metastasizes to other tissue, including the brain, lungs, lymph nodes, and bones. Early detection is critical in order to increase the chances for survival. The cancer can be felt upon digital rectal examination (DRE). These examinations are recommended routinely for all men over the age of 50 and high-risk men should commence at age 40.

A recent meta-analysis study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine analyzed 22 studies regarding prostate cancer and exposure to pesticides. The reviewed studies were published between 1995 and 2001. Similar to three previous meta-analysis studies, the researchers found a greater risk for prostate cancer in occupations exposed to pesticides. In addition, the researchers found that there was an increased risk to pesticide applicators, but this increase was not seen in farmers. The authors concluded that, “future epidemiological studies should focus, as far as possible, on reliable methods to estimate actual exposure.”1


1. G Van Maele-Fabry. Occupation related pesticide exposure and cancer of the prostate: a meta-analysis. Occup Environ Med. 2003;60:634-642.