Evidence pointing to environmental origins of Cancer

The regulatory world - and in particular - the pesticides organisations have been thrown into uproar with the decision by the IARC in March 2015 to classify the herbicide glyphosate, and the insecticides diazinon and malathion as probably carcinogenic. It is important to understand that the IARC assessments studies of the active ingredient and the full formulation - the complete mixture that the public are exposed to.

Conversely the EU to the US EPA to the WHO/FAO, narrowly assess the active ingredient for toxicity.  As the full formulation is frequently more toxic, evaluation of the full formulation would result in risk assessment that finds toxicity at lower, more delicate levels. Or to put it another way, risk assessment at the current levels would find that the levels the pubic is exposed to on a daily basis is dangerous to health.

A recent paper by independent scientists demonstrates that there is a 'coherent body of evidence indicating that GlyBH could be toxic below the regulatory lowest observed adverse effect level for chronic toxic effects'.

Shifting the regulatory environment to health based assessment that understand the powerful economic and societal benefits of placing health first, requires a radical departure from the current environment where trade based considerations lead to conservative decision-making, and in many cases, retention of harmful chemicals on the market. For example, the fumigant chloropicrin (banned in Europe) is used to sterilise strawberry fields in California. Incidence of cancer and ill-health is well documented, yet the fumigant stays authorised despite knowledge of its carcinogenic potential, and ability to travel long distances. 

California’s strawberry industry is hooked on dangerous pesticides. 'A decision to dismantle strict oversight designed to protect Californians from dangerous chemicals has put more than 100 communities at greater risk of cancer. '

Childhood cancer is increasing and pesticides are most commonly linked with leukemia and brain tumours. [1] Knowledge that most illness, including many cancers are related to environmental agents is also growing.

CNN Report: Pesticide exposure linked to childhood cancer and lower IQ. [2]

Cancer research is outlining the way cancer develops and the ‘Hallmarks of Cancer’ framework is well recognised. [3]  In 2011 this was updated, with the role of the immune system, inflammation and metabolism included as mechanisms of carcinogenesis, bringing into focus important new considerations.[4] The 2011 Hallmarks Next Generation paper noted that there is a ‘multistep process of human tumour pathogenesis’ and that the ‘biology of tumors can no longer be understood simply by enumerating the traits of the cancer cells but instead must encompass the contributions of the “tumor microenvironment” to tumorigenesis’.

Why aren't international cancer organisations demanding the cessation of spraying of glyphosate on sugar, cereals, vegetable oil seeds, etc. etc. if it Roundup is a probable carcinogen? 

It is very difficult to get funding to research the complex mechanisms that cause cancer. From understanding how pesticides act as xenohormones and contribute to cancer, to understanding the linkages with brain cancer, and other forms of cancer study - research can be subtle delicate business. The standard studies supplied to the agencies do not research this. The don't test at the levels we are exposed to and they don't test the full formulation.

The US organisation Beyond Pesticides has the perhaps the most comprehensive listing of cancer/pesticides relationships.

Cancer research organisations that we are all familiar with, raise money to fund cures for genetic disease. They play an important role in cancer care. Rarely do these organisations commit funding to research the environmental origins of disease. 

Example - conflicts of interest in Cancer Research UK.

Cancer Research UK chairman Michael Pragnell founded the pesticide arm of Syngenta, and worked intensively in the pesticide industry for over 20 years. 

Many scientists working in public health would consider his chairmanship a conflict of interest. Cancer Research UK has downplayed the role of pesticides in cancer.  Most recently, Cancer Research UK cited research 'women who eat organic foods are no less likely to develop cancer'.  The UK Soil Association countered this statement by suggesting it was 'strange that a 21% decrease in non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer, among women who reported usually or always eating organic food, is being so readily dismissed by Cancer Research UK'. 

Childhood Cancers

Pesticide exposures throughout pregnancy and childhood can increase the risk of cancer. According to cancer.org, the most common childhood cancers are:

  • Leukemia
  • Brain and other central nervous system tumors
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Wilms tumor
  • Lymphoma (including both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin)
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Retinoblastoma
  • Bone cancer (including osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma)

Every pesticide study held with the US EPA, WHO and European Commission is based on the needs of a 60kg adult. Residue levels of pesticides on food are arrived at after crop trials with the pesticide applied to the crop. The highest residues frequently become the permitted maximum residue level. No allowance is made for greater infancy or childhood exposure, as children consume more per bodyweight and absorb more through play.


Regulatory assessments depend on science supplied by the organisation dependant on the result.

Eg. Thyroid Cancer & Kidney Cancer - only Monsanto studies for the USA.

Thyroid cancer is increasing rapidly.  While governments and organisations crow over the success rates for overcoming thyroid cancer, it is also one of the most expensive cancers to treat.  It makes an impact on our healthcare budgets.

It is possible harmful thyroid carcinomas were dismissed in the last USA Roundup assessment [5] - and each of the 3 studies are provided by Monsanto:

1. US EPA Quote from the last 1993 Roundup/glyphosate assessment (RED): 'Agency concluded that these neoplasms were not treatment-related and glyphosate was not considered to be carcinogenic in this study because the incidence of thyroid carcinomas was not statistically significant and the incidence of testicular tumors was within the historical incidence.' [1]

The studies are private and unpublished, therefore it is impossible to evaluate the statistical significance rates and the historical incidence rates. The above thirty year old study by Monsanto in the last US glyphosate assessment, also dismissed c-cell carcinomas.  No endocrine specialist was consulted.

2. A second 1990 Monsanto carcinogenicity study held with this same US EPA glyphosate assessment showed: '(1) pancreatic islet cells adenomas in the low-dose and high-dose males; (2) hepatocellular (liver) adenomas in the low-dose and highdose males".

No lower dose studies were provided.

3. Quote: 'Agency concluded that the occurrence of these adenomas was spontaneous rather than compound-induced because the incidence of renal tubular adenomas in males was not statistically significant when compared with the concurrent controls. '

The references for the public don't even cite how many animals were used in the study.. Renal adenoma can be a precursor to renal carcinoma. Kidney cancer. 

Breast Cancer

A famous independent study - the only lifetime study using the full formulation of Roundup in the world - revealed mammary tumours.  This was later retracted by the journal who published it, due to inconclusivity.  If the full formulation of pesticides were used in testing, it would change the face of pesticide assessment.


It's time to change with 10 demands:  RITE.


Return to top


[1] Pesticide Exposure in Children. American Academy of Pediatrics. Roberts and Karr. 2012 doi:10.1542/peds.2012-2758

[2]  Residential Exposure to Pesticide During Childhood and Childhood Cancers: A Meta-Analysis. Chen et al 2015. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-0006Hanahan D., et al. (2011) Hallmarks of cancer: the next generation. Cell, 144, 646–674. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.02.013

[3] D.A.Hanahan & R.A.Weinberg. Review: The Hallmarks of Cancer. Cell. Vol. 100, pp57–70, 2000http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0092-8674(00)81683-9

[4]  Hanahan D., et al. (2011) Hallmarks of cancer: the next generation. Cell, 144, 646–674. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.02.013

[5] 1993 US EPA Glyphosate Reregistration Eligibility Decision. Page 13/14.  

1. Lankas, G.R.; Hogan, G.K. (1981) A Lifetime Feeding Study of Glyphosate (Roundup Technical) in Rats: Project No. 772062. (Unpublished study received Jan 20, 1982 under 524-308; prepared by Bio/dynamics, Inc., submitted by Monsanto Co., Washington, D.C.; CDL:246617-A; 246618; 246619; 246620; 246621)   MRID 00093879

2. Stout, L.; Ruecker, F. (1990) Chronic Study of Glyphosate Adminitered in Feed to Albino Rats: Lab Project Number: MSL- 10495: R.D. 1014. Unpublished study prepared by Monsanto Agricultural Co. 2175 p.    MRID 41643801

3. McConnel, R. (1985) A Chronic Feeding Study of Glyphosate (Roundup Technical in Mice): Pathology Report on Additional Kidney Sections: Addendum to Final Report Dated July 21, 1983: Project No. 77-2061A. Unpublished study prepared by Bio/dynamics Inc. 59 p. MRID 00150564  (NB. Bio/Dynamics studies tend to be funded by Monsanto – the institute worked closely with Monsanto throughout the 1993 glyphosate re-assessment).