By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - The National Pesticide Management Association calls pesticides an important and essential tool for managing bugs and rodents around our homes and businesses.

They're also heavily regulated by the government for safety.

But what is the cancer risk?

It's the subject of this week's Eight Ways to Prevent Cancer segment.

"There's certainly the possibility that pesticides and these agents do contribute to risk," said Dr. Graham Colditz, researcher at Siteman Cancer Center.

Dr. Colidtz says farm workers and people who are around pesticides and herbicides every day are the best example that higher exposures can boost the risk of cancer.

"We hope that our worker related regulations have cut down on exposures," said Dr. Colditz, "but following the occupational groups where people spray routinely has been one place where we've seen links between pesticides and lymphoma or leukemia."

So what about occasional home use?

"As we come down to lower doses say with spring use, it's much harder to document the link. That said it's much safer to minimize exposure to potentially hazardous agents," said Dr. Colditz.

Not just the amount you're exposed to, but your age when you're first exposed.

Studies show a mother's exposure to pesticides during pregnancy is associated with an increase in her child's risk of leukemia and brain tumors.

So limiting any contact with chemicals early in life will minimize risk.

"The importance though again, take precautions, keep the kids away if we're going to do these sorts of spraying activities," said Dr. Colditz.

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