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Cancer study just one piece of the puzzle

05 August 2011

Cancer study just one piece of the puzzle

Federated Farmers is interested to find out more about Massey University research around growing up on livestock farms and a possible association with increased blood cancer risks.

However, Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers vice-president and Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) spokes person says the study is just one piece of a very large puzzle.

“The study headed by Massey University Centre for Public Health researcher Andrea ‘t Mannetje raises some interesting findings around the risks of blood cancers in relation to different farming types, but there are some inconsistencies which need more explanation,” Dr Rolleston says.

“One is that crop farmers use more chemicals than livestock farmers, but it appears that children from crop farming backgrounds have a lower incidence of these cancers.

“The issue is one of cause and effect, which has not at this stage been shown. We should always treat such results seriously, but I think more information is needed to take any special precautions other than common sense safe practices.

”There may be other reasons why this result is as it is; chance or delays in getting to see the doctor for example.

“The report does raise the point that farming’s healthy lifestyle could be a contributing factor towards lower mortality rates from other common causes of death such as other cancers and heart disease, thereby making blood cancer factors stand out.

“It also states there has been little by way of comparable studies done overseas and I think there needs to be more work on how the results compare with international studies.

“I also note the authors say that chemical use might not be the only cause of higher than normal rates of blood cancers, but wonder if contact with animals has somehow altered the immune system development of children on farms. This is getting very speculative.

“Federated Farmers will be watching any further developments in this field of research but see it as just one piece in a jigsaw puzzle. We remain fully committed to the ongoing development and use of health and safety practices which go on already on farms.

“This is just another reminder for farmers to continue to use safe practices and follow guidelines,” Dr Rolleston concluded.


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