02:17pm Thursday 09 July 2020

UNMC researchers say common farm chemicals may pose risk for thyroid disease

UNMC researchers found 12.5 percent of the women had thyroid disease compared to 1 to 8 percent in the general population. They evaluated data of 16,529 women married to farmers licensed to apply pesticides in Iowa and North Carolina.
The data are from the Agricultural Health Study, a long-term study of licensed pesticide applicators, sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Cancer Institute.
Though the data was focused on Iowa and North Carolina, farm practices are similar in Nebraska. The study is the first and largest to show an association between pesticide exposure and thyroid disease. Up until now, most of the studies in humans have not been large enough.
Thyroid disease, which includes hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroid nodules and enlargement, when left untreated can be serious. Symptoms of hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid – include weight gain, fatigue, hair and skin changes, and sensitivity to cold temperatures. Hyperthyroidism – an overactive thyroid – can be associated with weight loss, higher heart rate, eye and skin changes, and heat sensitivity.
The researchers evaluated five commonly used insecticides and 39 other pesticides. The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
“There is increasing evidence that environmental exposure to pesticides should be considered a potential risk factor for thyroid disease,” said Whitney Goldner, M.D., assistant professor, UNMC Department of Internal Medicine, and one of the paper’s authors.
“Certain insecticides, herbicides and fungicides have been previously reported to be endocrine disrupters, which can interfere with the endocrine system,” Dr. Goldner said. “They may have a bigger role than we’ve given them credit for and we need to explore this further.”
The study showed an association between insecticides and fungicide exposure and hypothyroidism. There was also an association between one of the fungicides and hyperthyroidism.
Dr. Goldner added that it’s important that those exposed to pesticides be aware of the potential risks and know the signs and symptoms of thyroid disease.
Researchers from the NIEHS were co-authors on the paper.
As the state’s only academic health science center, UNMC is on the leading edge of health care. Breakthroughs are possible because hard-working researchers, educators and clinicians are resolved to work together to fuel discovery. In 2009, UNMC’s extramural research support topped $100 million for the first time, resulting in the creation of 3,600 jobs in Nebraska. UNMC’s academic excellence is shown through its award-winning programs, and its educational programs are responsible for training more health professionals practicing in Nebraska than any other institution. Through its commitment to education, research, patient care and outreach, UNMC and its hospital partner, The Nebraska Medical Center, have established themselves as one of the country’s leading health care centers. UNMC’s physician practice group, UNMC Physicians, includes 550 physicians in 50 specialties and subspecialties who practice primarily in The Nebraska Medical Center. For more information, go to UNMC’s Web site at www.unmc.edu.

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