Worldwide, farmers and agricultural populations consistently show distinctive patterns of health and disease that have been associated with protective environmental factors, lifestyle habits and occupational hazardous exposures. Working in environments rich in microorganisms, physically active work routines and low prevalence of smoking partially explain a reduced incidence of certain diseases (i.e. lung and colorectal cancer). In contrast, for example, regular exposure to ultraviolet rays, dust and toxic chemicals are in part responsible for increased risks of specific cancers, respiratory diseases and unfavorable neurologic outcomes (e.g. skin cancer, non-allergic asthma and cognitive decline).
AGRICOH is a consortium of agricultural cohort studies initiated by the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) and coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) since October 2010. As of October 2012, 27 cohorts from 5 continents comprise AGRICOH. The joining studies are from South Africa (2), Canada (3), Costa Rica (2), USA (7), Australia (2), Korea (1), New Zealand (2), Denmark (1), France (3), Norway (3) and the UK (1). All cohorts study health outcomes in relation to environmental and occupational exposures in agricultural settings with the exception of three general population cohorts encompassing a significant number of agricultural populations or planning to oversample individuals in agricultural areas.
The consortium is interested in identifying environmental and occupational exposures in agricultural settings associated with excess risk of chronic illnesses, including cancer, respiratory, neurologic and auto-immune diseases, reproductive and allergic disorders as well as in factors associated with a decreased morbidity risk.
A wide range of agricultural exposures is documented in these cohorts, the majority using questionnaire instruments to gather data on exposure. Seventeen cohorts have access to biological specimens in the whole group or in a sub-sample of participants.
AGRICOH plans to invite to join the consortium additional existing agricultural cohorts with special interest in the adhesion of cohorts from low- and medium-income countries.