Cancer mortality among Iowa farmers: Recent results, time trends, and lifestyle factors (United States)

James R. Cerhan, Kenneth P. Cantor, Kimberly Williamson, Charles F. Lynch, James C. Torner, Leon F. Burmeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Objectives: To update the cancer mortality patterns among Iowa (United States) farmers for the years 1987-93 and compare these results with those previously reported for 1971-86 as well as relate the PMR patterns to risk-factor survey data. Methods: We extracted usual occupation and cause of death from 88,090 Iowa death certificates for White males aged 20 and older for the years 1987-93. Proportional mortality ratios (PMR), adjusted for age, and 95 percent confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using deaths among nonfarmers to generate expected numbers. We compared lifestyle profiles for farmers and nonfarmers using male controls (n = 1,596) from a population-based case-control study conducted in Iowa from 1986-89. Results: Iowa farmers had deficit PMRs for all-cause cancer mortality (PMR = 0.92, CI = 0.90-0.94) and for lung (PMR = 0.70, CI = 0.66-0.73), liver (PMR = 0.65, CI = 0.50-0.86), and other cancer sites strongly related to smoking and alcohol use. Farmers at all ages had excess deaths for cancers of the prostate (PMR = 1.26, CI = 1.19-1.33), rectum (PMR = 1.29, CI = 1.07-1.56), brain (PMR = 1.10, CI = 0.92-1.32), multiple myeloma (PMR = 1.17, CI = 0.98-1.40), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (PMR = 1.09, CI = 0.96-1.23), and Hodgkin's disease (PMR = 1.62, CI = 1.04-2.54). Younger farmers (aged 20 to 64 years) had excess deaths for colon cancer (PMR = 1.52, CI = 1.26-1.85) and skin melanoma (PMR = 1.60, CI = 1.07-2.38), while older farmers (aged 65+ years) had excess deaths for cancers of the pancreas (PMR = 1.18, CI = 1.04-1.34), lip (PMR = 1.58, CI = 0.59-4.21), and leukemia (PMR = 1.26, CI = 1.09-1.46). Since the 1970s, the PMR for stomach cancer has declined to expected values, while the PMRs for prostate, large intestine, pancreas, and Hodgkin's disease have increased; PMRs for other sites are consistent with earlier data. A survey from 1986-89 showed that farmers, compared with nonfarmers, smoked less, used less alcohol, had less formal education, and consumed more total calories, and calories from protein, fat, and meat while consuming fewer calories from fruits and vegetables. Conclusions: Iowa farmers continue to be at elevated risk of mortality due to certain cancers, and, of particular interest, the risk for prostate and colon cancer appears to be increasing since 1970.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-319
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Causes and Control
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


  • Cancer motility
  • Farming
  • Lifestyle
  • Men
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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