Cancer incidence and risks in selected agricultural settlements in the negev of Israel

Lona Avnon, Irit Oryan, Ella Kordysh, John Goldsmith, Reuven Sobel, Michael Friger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Medical staff of two Negev kibbutzim invited epidemiologists to help them investigate cancer rates among their members. Our objectives were (a) to determine whether the cancer rate in the kibbutzim was elevated or abnormal and (b) to determine the role of agricultural and other relevant exposures if cancer incidence was elevated. We validated cases of cancer by kibbutz records and by surveying other information; we computed expected values on the basis of the age-sex-calendar period and site-specific cancer incidence rates reported by the Israel Cancer Registry for the entire population; and we compared the data for the 2 kibbutzim with data derived for similar age and sex groups in 2 other kibbutzim, which were assumed not to have increased cancer rates. In addition, we planned and conducted a case-referent study, including the design, pretest, and use of questionnaires, including data about lifetime exposures (i.e., type of work and its duration, agricultural and industrial chemicals, smoking and alcohol use, demographic variables, health experiences, and family history). In only one of the kibbutzim, for which high cancer rates were suspected, was there significant excess for all sites in persons who were less than 40 y of age. In one of the “comparison” kibbutzim, we found increased cancer rates overall. Much of the excess in the high cancer kibbutzim was in hematological cancer (i.e., leukemia and lymphoma). Multiple years of work in fields, orchards, and landscape, as well as orchard work that commenced before 1960, were associated with increased risk of cancer (p < .08). We also found an association between cancer rate and numbers of industrial chemicals used (p < .08). Pipe and cigarette smoking were also associated with increased cancer incidence. In the multivariate analysis, the association with calendar year in which orchard work was started and multiple exposures to industrial chemicals was stronger than associations noted in the univariate analyses. Although duration of agricultural work or multiple industrial exposures were clearly associated with increase in cancer risk, we were unable to identify the causal role of specific agent(s). Nonetheless, educational programs for cancer prevention can be based, in part, on the results of such a study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-343
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Environmental Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science (all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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