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Challenges in Evaluating Gender Differences from Environmental Risk Factors: The Case of Pesticides and Cancer Risk - Melissa Friesen, Ph.D.

November 17, 2020 | 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM


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Many occupational studies have assumed risks identified in men also pertain to women because historically there has been insufficient numbers of exposed women to study their risks independently. One such example is the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) cohort of pesticide applicators, where the cohort is predominantly male and is generally underpowered to evaluate risks separately for female applicators. However, over 30,000 spouses of the pesticide applicators (99% female) were enrolled concurrently. Of these, over 60% report participating in mixing and applying pesticides themselves. They are also likely indirectly exposed to pesticides from take-home exposure, agricultural drift, and pesticide use in the home and yard. As such, they represent a group that can provide unique information on cancer–pesticide risks and female reproductive cancers. Dr. Friesen will describe the challenges in characterizing pesticide exposure for the AHS spouses and will describe the development of a novel algorithm to quantify non-occupational pesticide exposure for the AHS spouse to provide estimates that can be used in future etiologic analyses.  She will also describe efforts to validate the algorithm’s intensity estimates using house dust samples collected from the homes of the participants.

Registration is required.  

To request reasonable accommodations to participate, contact Elizabeth Barr (, or the Federal Relay Service provides free telecommunications relay service.

The seminar is hosted by the NIH Sex and Gender in Health and Disease (SGHD) Scientific Interest Group (SIG).