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farmer in field inspecting crops

Agricultural Health Study

Challenge

The Agricultural Health Study (AHS) is a large, complex and multifaceted prospective scientific project that is a collaborative effort of four federal partners including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The primary purpose of the Agricultural Health Study is to assess the health effects of occupational exposures, particularly to pesticides, on farmers and their families. The study also examines other environmental, occupational, dietary, medical, lifestyle and genetic factors in relation to health in this population.

Solution

From the inception of the study, Battelle served as the North Carolina Field Station for 18 years. As one of two field stations, Battelle has been a key player in this study through multiple research phases and activities. Battelle recruited over 31,000 cohort members from all 100 counties in NC over a three-year enrollment period.

Battelle collected more than 98,000 interviews with licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses. In addition, we collected more than 8,900 genetic samples from this population in the latter two phases. Through active follow-up with the cohort, incident data were obtained for cancer endpoints and self-reported outcomes for non-cancer diagnoses, and updated agricultural exposures and lifestyle characteristics were collected. This follow-up also collected medical records in ancillary studies to verify self-reported disease diagnoses and biospecimens (buccal cells for cohort and blood for ancillary) to evaluate genetic patterns. Passive follow-up identified more than 4,600 incidence cancer cases and more than 4,300 decedents (through 2011).

Outcome

The prospective Agricultural Health Study has design strengths that will enhance previous observations, counter limitations of previous studies and is likely within the next five years to identify many of the etiologic agents and lifestyle factors related to the excesses and deficits of cancer and other diseases observed among farmers. The increasing use of many agricultural chemicals in the urban environment (e.g., pesticides and fertilizers) underscores the importance in assessing the potential for these chemicals to cause cancer in humans. Visit aghealth.nih.gov for a listing of the more than 100 study manuscripts published since inception.

This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.