Migrant farmworkers experience higher rates of leukemia, brain, prostate and skin cancer

Monday March 18, 2002

FRESNO — Armando Sanchez was diagnosed with leukemia in October. Now enduring chemotherapy, Sanchez said he wishes farmers had warned him of the dangers of pesticides. 

“The cancer is because of the pesticides,” said 66-year-old farmworker, who spent 40 years spraying chemicals on grape and citrus fields in the Imperial Valley. Hispanic farmworkers have higher rates of brain, leukemia, skin and stomach cancers compared with other Hispanics in California, according to a study by the Cancer Registry of California, a state agency that has collected data on cancer cases statewide since 1998. But the registry’s study doesn’t specifically link pesticide use to the higher rates of cancer. Female Hispanic farmworkers also had higher cases of uterine cancer than the rest of the state’s Latinas, according to the study, “Cancer Incidence in the United Farm Workers of America, 1987-1997” published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine’s November 2001 issue. 

“The union’s position is that it’s directly related to pesticide usage,” said Doug Blaylock, the union’s medical plan administrator.