Multiple myeloma has been linked to farming for over thirty years. However, there is little clarity about the magnitude of the risk, nor about the specific agricultural exposures which contribute to the risk.
We have carried out a systematic review of case-control studies of multiple myeloma published from 1970 to October 2007. Studies were identified through database searches and from references in the literature.
Studies reporting risk estimates from farming, agricultural exposures, and exposure to animals were identified, and details ed. The impact of study heterogeneity, publication bias, variation in methods of case identification and exposure ascertainment between studies were considered in analysis.
Case control studies showed a pooled odds ratio (OR) for working as a farmer of 1.39 95% CI 1.18 to 1.65. There was no graphic evidence of publication bias, for pesticide exposure 1.47; 95% 1.11 to 1.94, for DDT 2.19; CI 95% 1.30 to 2.95; for exposed to herbicides 1.69; 95 %CI 1.01 to 1.83. For working on a farm for more than ten years OR was 1.87; 95% CI 1.15 to 3.16.
Farmers seem to have increase risk for MM. However, a major limitation of this analysis is the presence of significant heterogeneity across the studies and the evidence of publication bias in some models.
A pooled analysis using individual level data could provide more power and permit the harmonization of occupational and exposure coding data.