Childhood leukemia patients have elevated levels of household pesticides in their urine, according to a new study by the Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"In our study, we compared urine samples from children with ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) and their mothers with healthy children and their moms," said study researcher Offie Soldin.
"We found elevated levels of common household pesticides more often in the mother-child pairs affected by cancer," said Soldin, an epidemiologist at the center, who led the research published in August's issue of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring.
"We shouldn't assume that pesticides caused these cancers, but our findings certainly support the need for more robust research in this area," she said.
Between January 2005 and January 2008, the study tested 41 pairs of children with ALL and their mothers, and 41 pairs of healthy children and their mothers.
Pesticides were found in the urine of more than half of the study's participants, but levels of two OP metabolites -- diethylthiophosphate (DETP) and diethlydithiophosphate (DEDTP) "were higher in the children with ALL."
Pesticides are prevalent in the environment and can easily be absorbed through the skin or through respiration.
The participants were asked to provide a family history and details about their home and neighborhood, diet, smoke exposure and use of pesticides in the home.
Some 33 percent of women whose children had ALL said they used pesticides at home, as compared with 14 percent among women whose children were healthy.
"We know pesticides -- sprays, strips, or 'bombs,' are found in at least 85 percent of households, but obviously not all the children in these homes develop cancer," Soldin said.
Previous studies, including in agricultural areas where such chemicals are used frequently, have indicated a link between pesticides and cancer in children, but this study is the first to examine the link between household pesticides and the disease, according to the research's authors.
ALL usually affects children between the ages of three and seven years old.