Certain agricultural exposures may lead to an increased risk of soft tissue sarcomas, including gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST), according to a new study published in the International Journal of Cancer.

The authors found that the risk of sarcomas was increased in cattle farmers, those involved in greenhouse production, and those involved in field-grown vegetable production.

In terms of sarcoma subtypes, an increased risk of myosarcoma and fibrosarcoma was found in those working with field-grown vegetables (hazard ratio [HR]=2.37; 95% CI, 1.16-4.85) and a potentially increased risk of GIST among vineyard workers exposed to pesticides (HR=2.24; 95% CI, 0.95-5.30) although the number of cases for both was low (n=10 and n=9, respectively).

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For cattle farmers, the overall risk of sarcoma was elevated for those working less than 10 years (HR=2.45; 95% CI, 1.36-4.43) and those who breed more than 50 animals (HR=3.84; 95% CI, 1.60-9.22). The risk was also elevated for those who disinfect animal buildings, especially if working less than 20 years (HR=2.51; 95% CI, 1.15-5.47).

Vegetable farmers working in greenhouse production (HR=1.82; 95% CI, 1.01-3.30) and field-grown vegetables (HR=1.49; 95% CI, 0.96-2.32) also had an increase risk of sarcoma.

“The main agricultural exposure studied until now in the literature on sarcoma risk were phenoxyherbicide and chlorophenol uses, although exposures in breeding were also investigated more recently in studies that found results similar to ours,” the authors said.

“Our findings underlined the necessity to explore agricultural exposures other than herbicide use, including exposures in livestock growing.”

The study included data from the AGRIculture and CANcer cohort comprised of 181,842 individuals enrolled between 2005 and 2007. After exclusions, a total of 148,036 individuals were included in the study, and of these, 188 were found to have developed sarcoma during follow-up including 39 cases of GIST.


Renier M, Busson A, Boulanger M, et al. Agricultural exposure and risk of soft tissue sarcomas and gastrointestinal stromal sarcoma in the AGRIculture and CANcer (AGRICAN) cohort. Int J Cancer. Published online January 19, 2022. doi:10.1002/ijc.33936