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In a Beyond Pesticides story on May 28, 2009 the link between pancreatic cancer and two common herbicides was reported. Pancreatic cancer, gallbladder cancer and bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) are among the most devastating cancers. Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in about 35,000 U.S. citizens each year. Just about that exact number die showing that there is no effective cure, the cancer acts quickly and few patients survive the disease.

Before I tell you about the herbicide link to pancreatic cancer just revealed, let me talk about treatment and hope. You need to read it here because most doctors either don’t know about the new treatments and cures or they just don’t tell their patients about them. Here is a short primer on where to go and who to see about treatment. I have no conflict here. My disclosure: my wife died of cancer and I saw what patients go through and I learned things about cancer treatment that each of us has to learn for ourselves. I can testify.

As I will write in other articles, there are possible cures for liver, bile duct, gallbladder and pancreatic cancers that most doctors will describe as inoperable, unresectable, unresponsive to standard treatment and incurable. A few patients with these dire prognoses will find their way to particular doctors at particular centers and as a result and find a way through the predictions of death to life.

Dr. William C. Chapman at Washington University in St. Louis is curing bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) and doing great things with gallbladder and pancreatic cancer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Dr. William C. Chapman, M.D.

Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital

660 So. Euclid Ave.

Box 8109

St. Louis, MO 63110

(314) 362-7792

Dr. Steven Rosen at the legendary Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in doing the same. On the cancer vaccine front, a hugely promising new treatment option, is being pioneered at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer center in Baltimore Maryland and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX. The University of Pittsburgh is also pioneering new treatments for these devastating cancers that are very resistant to both chemotherapy and radiation. Andrew Kennedy at wake Radiology in Cary, North Carolina also as knocked out inoperable liver tumors with a simple out-patient procedure call radioembolization using radioactive Yttrium-90 microspheres.

Two commonly used herbicides, pendimethalin and EPTC, show a statistically significant exposure-response association with pancreatic cancer. The new study, “Agricultural Pesticide Use And Pancreatic Cancer Risk In The Agricultural Health Study Cohort,” published earlier this month in the International Journal of Cancer, is a case-control study of pesticide applicators and their spouses in Iowa and North Carolina. After controlling for age, smoking and diabetes, the study finds a three-fold increased risk with lifetime pendimethalin use and a two-and-a-half-fold increased risk with lifetime use of EPTC when compared to those that never used the chemicals. Among the 24 pesticides examined, having ever used one of five pesticides (trifluralin, chlorimuron-ethyl, pendimethalin, EPTC or heptachlor) shows at least a 40 percent excess risk of pancreatic cancer.

According to the U.S. EPA’s pesticide sales and usage statistics, pendimethalin is the third most commonly used home and garden (and other non-agricultural use) herbicide and the 7th most commonly used herbicide in agriculture, totaling 21-30 million pounds applied annually in the U.S. Pendimethalin is listed by the U.S. EPA as a Group C – Possible Human Carcinogen and is a suspected endocrine disruptor. Pendimethalin has been found to cause central nervous system depression in mice and rats. In addition, the herbicide potentiates hypnosis caused by other drugs such as pentobarbitone, barbitone or ether, and lengthened recovery from drug effects. The percentage of apoptosis increased in mouse embryos exposed to low doses of pendimethalin, suggesting that at levels considered to be safe in humans by regulatory standards pendimethalin has adverse effects very early in development.

EPTC is also a commonly used herbicide, with more than 5-8 million pounds used annually, according to EPA. It is regularly used on feed and food crops such as alfalfa, potato, and corn as well as non-agricultural uses such as rights-of-way and landscapes. EPTC, a thiocarbamate pesticide, is a cholinesterase inhibitor and is linked to increasing the risk of developing asthma.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading case of cancer-related death in the U.S. The National Cancer Institute estimates that pancreatic cancer will lead to more than 35,000 deaths in 2009 and more than 42,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2009. There has been a slight increasing trend in pancreatic cancers since the early 1990’s, with higher rates in men than woman.

Several studies published over the past 15 years have linked pesticide exposures to pancreatic cancer:
* A 2009 study analyzing pesticide sales in different parts of Brazil and cancer mortality rates a decade later found a statistically significant correlation with the mortality rates for several cancers, including cancer of the pancreas;
* A 2007 Finnish study found a more than six-fold increased risk of pancreatic cancer for male gardeners;
* A 2007 study identifying risk factors for pancreatic cancer in Egypt found a more than two and a half increased risk for those individuals exposed to pesticides;
* A 2001 National Cancer Institute study found excess risk for occupational exposure to fungicides (odds ratio (OR) 1.5) and herbicides (OR 1.6);
* A 2000 case-control study in Spain found occupational exposure to pesticides causes a three-fold increased risk for pancreatic cancer;
* A 1999 study of aerial pesticide applicator pilots found a significantly elevated risk for pancreatic cancer;
* A 1995 case control occupational study in Finland found a 1.7 increased risk for occupational pesticide exposure; and,
* A 1993 case-referent study of Italian farmers found a significantly increased risk of pancreatic cancer among licensed pesticides users with greater than 10 years experience.

Last month, EPA announced that it will be moving forward with preliminary testing of 67 active and inert pesticide ingredients for possible endocrine disrupting effects. Yet, according to prominent researcher and author Theo Colborn, Ph.D., EPA’s testing protocol will not detect chemicals that can alter development and function of the pancreas, and its hormone, insulin, which could lead to diabetes and obesity.

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