Association between pesticide exposure and colorectal cancer risk and incidence: A systematic review

Eryn K. Matich, Jonathan A. Laryea, Kathryn A. Seely, Shelbie Stahr, L. Joseph Su, Ping Ching Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background: Studies investigating the association between pesticide exposure and colorectal cancer (CRC) risk have been inconclusive. Objectives: Investigate the association between pesticide exposure and CRC risk through a systematic literature review. Methods: CRC has the fourth-highest rate of cancer-caused death in the US after lung cancer, breast cancer in women, and prostate cancer in men. Here we have conducted a systematic literature search on studies examining the association between any pesticide exposure and CRC risk using PubMed, MEDLINE via EBSCO host, and Embase according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses checklist. Results: Following the review, 139 articles were included for qualitative evaluation. Study participants were farmers, pesticide applicators, pesticide manufacturers, spouses of pesticide applicators, farm residents, Korean veterans of the Vietnam War, rural communities, and those who consumed food with pesticide residues. The studies' results were split between those with significant positive (39 significant results) and inverse (41 significant results) associations when comparing pesticide exposure and CRC risk. Discussion: From our literature review, we have identified a similar number of significant positive and inverse associations of pesticide exposure with CRC risk and therefore cannot conclude whether pesticide exposure has a positive or inverse association with CRC risk overall. However, certain pesticides such as terbufos, dicamba, trifluralin, S-ethyl dipropylthiocarbamate (EPTC), imazethapyr, chlorpyrifos, carbaryl, pendimethalin, and acetochlor are of great concern not only for their associated elevated risk of CRC, but also for the current legal usage in the United States (US). Aldicarb and dieldrin are of moderate concern for the positive associations with CRC risk, and also for the illegal usage or the detection on imported food products even though they have been banned in the US. Pesticides can linger in the soil, water, and air for weeks to years and, therefore, can lead to exposure to farmers, manufacturing workers, and those living in rural communities near these farms and factories. Approximately 60 million people in the US live in rural areas and all of the CRC mortality hotspots are within the rural communities. The CRC mortality rate is still increasing in the rural regions despite the overall decreasing of incidence and mortality of CRC elsewhere. Therefore, the results from this study on the relationship between pesticide exposure and CRC risk will help us to understand CRC health disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112327
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Environmental exposure
  • Occupational exposure
  • Pesticides

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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