Occupational exposure to pesticides and central nervous system tumors: results from the CERENAT case–control study

Cancer causes and control, July 2021

Isabelle Baldi, Lucie De Graaf, Ghislaine Bouvier, Anne Gruber, Hugues Loiseau, Matthieu Meryet-Figuiere, Sarah Rousseau, Pascale Fabbro-Peray, Pierre Lebailly


DOI: 10.1007/s10552-021-01429-x


Background: The etiology of the central nervous system (CNS) tumors remains largely unknown. The role of pesticide exposure has been suggested by several epidemiological studies, but with no definitive conclusion.

Objective: To analyze associations between occupational pesticide exposure and primary CNS tumors in adults in the CERENAT study.

Methods: CERENAT is a multicenter case-control study conducted in France in 2004-2006. Data about occupational pesticide uses-in and outside agriculture-were collected during detailed face-to-face interviews and reviewed by experts for consistency and exposure assignment. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were estimated with conditional logistic regression.

Results: A total of 596 cases (273 gliomas, 218 meningiomas, 105 others) and 1 192 age- and sex-matched controls selected in the general population were analyzed. Direct and indirect exposures to pesticides in agriculture were respectively assigned to 125 (7.0%) and 629 (35.2%) individuals and exposure outside agriculture to 146 (8.2%) individuals. For overall agricultural exposure, we observed no increase in risk for all brain tumors (OR 1.04, 0.69-1.57) and a slight increase for gliomas (OR 1.37, 0.79-2.39). Risks for gliomas were higher when considering agricultural exposure for more than 10 years (OR 2.22, 0.94-5.24) and significantly trebled in open field agriculture (OR 3.58, 1.20-10.70). Increases in risk were also observed in non-agricultural exposures, especially in green space workers who were directly exposed (OR 1.89, 0.82-4.39), and these were statistically significant for those exposed for over 10 years (OR 2.84, 1.15-6.99).

Discussion: These data support some previous findings regarding the potential role of occupational exposures to pesticides in CNS tumors, both inside and outside agriculture.

Keywords: Agriculture; Central nervous system tumor; Etiology; Glioma; Green spaces; Meningioma; Occupational exposures; Pesticides.