Could Prenatal Pesticide Exposure Cause Medulloblastoma? 

Could something that you’re exposed to while still in the womb impact your health? Although it may not be something we think about often, the answer is yes. What we’re exposed to during pregnancy can have an impact on us later in life. For example, explains DocWireNews, new research suggests that prenatal pesticide exposure could prompt the development of medulloblastoma, a type of pediatric brain tumor. Read the full study published in Environmental Research.

The Research

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS):

A pesticide is any substance used to kill, repel, or control certain forms of plant or animal life that are considered to be pests. Pesticides include herbicides for destroying weeds and other unwanted vegetation, insecticides for controlling a wide variety of insects, fungicides used to prevent the growth of molds and mildew, disinfectants for preventing the spread of bacteria, and compounds used to control mice and rats.

Pesticide exposure can prompt neurotoxicity, in which neurons are damaged or die. In fact, some research suggests that pesticide exposure can have neurotoxic responses such as cognitive impairment. When prenatal pesticide exposure occurs, pesticides can be found in cord blood, suggesting the toxins are being directly delivered during fetal development. Thus, researchers wanted to determine whether fetal pesticide exposure could lead to medulloblastoma development.

In the research, researchers evaluated pediatric patients with cancer and sourced data from a 13-year period (1998-2011). 123,158 controls were also used. During the study, researchers discovered 667 pediatric patients with cancerous tumors in their central nervous system (CNS). Additional data found:

  • Patients who grew up with pesticides up to 4,000 meters away from home could be impacted.
  • Thiophanate-methyl exposure increased the risk of ependymoma and diffuse astrocytoma. Additional pesticide usage also increased the risk of astrocytomas.
  • Linuron, chlorothalonil, propiconazole, or dimethoate exposure increased the risk of medulloblastoma.
  • Researchers suggest that individuals living in rural or agricultural areas should be extremely careful about pesticide exposure, particularly during pregnancy.


Medulloblastoma, or cerebellar primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET), is one of the more common brain tumors in children. In fact, up to 20% of pediatric brain tumors fit into this category. While medulloblastoma can occur at any age, it is most commonly found in male patients under 16 years old. An estimated 250-500 children receive a diagnosis each year. Typically, medulloblastoma forms in the cerebellum but can spread. Symptoms of medulloblastoma include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Clumsiness
  • Back pain
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Confusion
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Poor coordination
  • Changes with walking or movement

Learn more about medulloblastoma.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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