Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 24, Issue 7, pp 1269–1278 | Cite as

Exposure to pesticides and the risk of childhood brain tumors

  • Kathryn R. Greenop
  • Susan Peters
  • Helen D. Bailey
  • Lin Fritschi
  • John Attia
  • Rodney J. Scott
  • Deborah C. Glass
  • Nicholas H. de Klerk
  • Frank Alvaro
  • Bruce K. Armstrong
  • Elizabeth MilneEmail author
Original paper



Previous research has suggested positive associations between parental or childhood exposure to pesticides and risk of childhood brain tumors (CBT). This Australian case–control study of CBT investigated whether exposures to pesticides before pregnancy, during pregnancy and during childhood, were associated with an increased risk.


Cases were recruited from 10 pediatric oncology centers, and controls by random-digit dialing, frequency matched on age, sex, and State of residence. Exposure data were collected by written questionnaires and telephone interviews. Data were analyzed by unconditional logistic regression.


The odds ratios (ORs) for professional pest control treatments in the home in the year before the index pregnancy, during the pregnancy, and after the child’s birth were 1.54 (95 % confidence interval (CI): 1.07, 2.22), 1.52 (95 % CI: 0.99, 2.34) and 1.04 (95 % CI: 0.75, 1.43), respectively. ORs for treatments exclusively before pregnancy and during pregnancy were 1.90 (95 % CI: 1.08, 3.36) and 1.02 (95 % CI: 0.35, 3.00), respectively. The OR for the father being home during the treatment was 1.79 (95 % CI: 0.85, 3.80). The OR for paternal occupational exposure in the year before the child’s conception was 1.36 (95 % CI: 0.66, 2.80). ORs for prenatal home pesticide exposure were elevated for low- and high-grade gliomas; effect estimates for other CBT subtypes varied and lacked precision.


These results suggest that preconception pesticide exposure, and possibly exposure during pregnancy, is associated with an increased CBT risk. It may be advisable for both parents to avoid pesticide exposure during this time.


Brain tumors Case–control studies Child Cancer Pesticides Insecticides 



The authors acknowledge the contribution made by our clinical co-investigators who recruited and cared for study patients at each participating hospital: Nicholas Gottardo (Princess Margaret Hospital, TICHR); John Heath and Elizabeth Smibert (Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne); Peter Downie (Monash Medical Center, Melbourne); Tim Hassell and Ross Pinkerton (Royal Children’s Hospital Brisbane); Maria Kirby (Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide); Stewart Kellie and Luciano dalla Pozza (Westmead Hospital); Frank Alvaro (John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle); Richard Cohn (Sydney Children’s Hospital) and John Dauberton (Royal Hobart Hospital). The authors also acknowledge the Clinical Research Associates at each hospital, and the study coordinators: Jackie Mansour, Somer Dawson, Tamika Heiden, and Helen Bailey; and Peter Cosgrove for programming the estimation of supplement intake from the food frequency questionnaires. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funded Aus-ALL (Grant number: 254539) and Aus-CBT (Grant number: 404089). Elizabeth Milne and Lin Fritschi were supported by NHMRC Fellowships, and Helen Bailey was supported by NHMRC Post Graduate Scholarship 513934. Support for Rodney Scott was in part from NBN Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

Consortium statement

The Aus-CBT consortium conducted the study, and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research (TICHR), University of Western Australia, was the coordinating center. Bruce Armstrong (Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney), Elizabeth Milne, Nicholas de Klerk, Carol Bower, Peter Dallas (TICHR), Frank van Bockxmeer (Royal Perth Hospital, University of WA), Rodney Scott and John Attia (University of Newcastle), Lin Fritschi (WA Institute for Medical Research), Lesley Ashton, Michelle Haber and Murray Norris (Children’s Cancer Institute Australia for Medical Research, Lowy Cancer Research Center, UNSW), Margaret Miller (Edith Cowan University), and Judith Thompson (WA Cancer Registry) were the research investigators.

Conflict of interest


Supplementary material

10552_2013_205_MOESM1_ESM.doc (60 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 60 kb)
10552_2013_205_MOESM2_ESM.doc (42 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 43 kb)
10552_2013_205_MOESM3_ESM.doc (34 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOC 34 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn R. Greenop
    • 1
  • Susan Peters
    • 2
  • Helen D. Bailey
    • 1
  • Lin Fritschi
    • 2
  • John Attia
    • 3
    • 4
  • Rodney J. Scott
    • 4
    • 5
  • Deborah C. Glass
    • 6
  • Nicholas H. de Klerk
    • 1
  • Frank Alvaro
    • 7
    • 9
  • Bruce K. Armstrong
    • 8
  • Elizabeth Milne
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health ResearchUniversity of Western AustraliaWest PerthAustralia
  2. 2.Western Australian Institute for Medical ResearchUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia
  4. 4.Hunter Medical Research Institute, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of HealthUniversity of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia
  5. 5.Hunter Area Pathology Service, HNEHealthNewcastleAustralia
  6. 6.Department of Epidemiology and Preventive MedicineMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  7. 7.Department of Paediatric OncologyJohn Hunter Children’s HospitalNewcastleAustralia
  8. 8.Sydney School of Public HealthUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  9. 9.School of Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

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