Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Prevention & Risk »

Roundup Weed Killer and Lymphoma Risk

Dr. Catherine Diefenbach New York University Langone Health

The Link Between Weed Killer and Cancer

  • Studies show an association between exposure to certain weed killers and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • It’s important to note that association doesn’t mean cause
  • There hasn’t been a study that has conclusively proved that Roundup causes lymphoma
  • Other risk factors, such as age, exposure to certain infections, and family history also play roles

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the immune system. It happens when the body pumps out an inordinate amount of abnormal white blood cells called lymphocytes. Over time, these cancerous lymphocytes crowd out the healthy white blood cells.

While certain infections, bacteria, medications, and even increased age are well known risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, there are a new crop of culprits that have researchers concerned: one is exposure to glyphosate, a common ingredient in weed killer.

Glyphosate Explained

Glyphosate is a key ingredient in herbicides used by farmers and homeowners alike. Until recently, the general consensus was that products containing glyphosate were safe for humans to use. Emerging research suggests, however, that there may be an association between weed killer use and different types of cancer.

Several studies report a link between glyphosate exposure and damage to the DNA in human cells. A subset of these studies show an association between glyphosate exposure and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other blood cell-related cancers.

While a number of popular weed-killing brands use glyphosate in their formulations, Roundup weed killer has received the most attention in recent years. In one case, a federal jury ordered Monsanto, the makers of Roundup, to pay $80 million to a man who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup for 30 years on his property (the amount was later lowered to $25 million).

Association Does Not Mean Cause

High payout lawsuits have certainly shined a light on a potential link between glyphosate-containing products and cancers of different varieties, but it’s important to remember that association does not mean cause.

“There hasn’t been a study that has conclusively proved a causal link between Roundup and lymphoma, although it does look like Roundup probably increases lymphoma risk,” says Dr. Catherine Diefenbach, a hematologist/oncologist at NYU Langone Health. “Instead, we need to understand why there’s a higher number of lymphoma cases among people who use Roundup.”

Whether or not glyphosate causes cancer, the chemical does appear on California’s list of cancer-causing agents. Some health authorities, including the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, call it a “probable human carcinogen.”

Lymphoma and Roundup

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in the United States, according to The American Cancer Society. Your odds of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma over the course of your lifetime depends on a number of risk factors, including whether or not you frequently use weed killer.

“But I don’t think just because you used Roundup means you are going to get lymphoma,” Dr. Diefenbach says. “Most of the lymphomas that have been associated with Roundup appear to be non-Hodgkin lymphoma, so there’s not a clear Hodgkin lymphoma risk associated with using Roundup.”

It’s also important to note that glyphosate isn’t only in weed killer. It’s also in our food, water, and in the air that is all around us. Chances are good that every American has been exposed to some degree of glyphosate. If you’re concerned about your exposure because you frequently work with weedkiller, contact your doctor — and watch for these symptoms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma:

  • Sudden or unexplained weight loss
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Swelling or pain in the abdomen
  • Night sweats, fever, or fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the groin, armpits, or neck

Report symptoms like these to your doctor. And, let your doctor know if you have any known non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk factors, such as chemical exposure, infections, or a family history.

 

 

Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.


Dr. Catherine Diefenbach is a hematologist–oncologist specializing in the care of patients with lymphoma. She is director of hematology translational research, and director of the Clinical Lymphoma Program at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center. Read More

Prevention & Risk: Risk Factors

  • There’s no screening test for lymphoma, so being aware of risk is important
  • You may be at a higher risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma if you’ve been exposed to a virus like HIV, have another autoimmune disease or have a family history
  • Some common symptoms are swollen glands, fever, night sweats, weight loss and fatigue
Prevention & Risk

Finding Lymphoma Early: Do you Know the Symptoms and Risks?

Dr. Elise Chong
Penn Medicine
Prevention & Risk

Age, Race, and Exposures Might All Factor Into Lymphoma Risk

Dr. Michael Jain
Moffitt Cancer Center
Symptoms & Diagnosis

Sneaky Lymphoma Symptoms Often Lead to a Late Diagnosis

Dr. Elise Chong
Penn Medicine
Prevention

How Race Affects Blood Cancer Risk

Dr. Adrienne Phillips
Weill Cornell Medicine