Appliers of pesticides (n = 18) who are exposed to the fumigant phosphine or who have a mixed exposure to other pesticides and phosphine demonstrate a significant increase in chromosome rearrangements in G-banded chromosomes from peripheral blood compared to control subjects (n = 26). Appliers who had discontinued using phosphine for at least 8 months prior to specimen collection (n = 5) do not demonstrate significant increases in chromosome rearrangements compared to controls. Breakpoint analysis of 6,138 metaphases from all subjects demonstrates 196 breaks per 3605 metaphases in exposed subjects and 102 breaks per 2,533 metaphases in control subjects. Bands with significantly more breaks than expected based on band length in all study subjects were 1q32, 3p14, 7p15, and 14q11. Three of these four bands had significantly more breaks than expected in the exposed group, and all four bands had a significant excess of breaks in the control group. There are four bands with a significant excess of breaks in the exposed group and no breaks in the control group; each of these occurs in a known protooncogene region. These are 1p13 (NRAS), 2p23 (NMYC), 14q32 (ELK2), and 21q12 (ETS-2). Most breaks at bands 1p13, 14q32, and 21q22 are associated with chromosome rearrangements and occurred in appliers who have a mixed exposure to phosphine and other pesticides. Cytogenetic abnormalities, i.e., rearrangements and/or deletions involving bands 1p13, 2p23, and 14q32, are associated with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. We speculate that these findings could relate to the risk of evolution of a neoplastic clone in these workers. Epidemiological studies of similarly exposed workers indicate an excess of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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