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Does Roundup Cause Cancer?

Roundup is a widely used herbicide containing glyphosate. Large studies have implicated this product in cases of cancer. However, there is debate about whether Roundup causes cancer, and the EPA is currently reviewing its stance on glyphosate as a human carcinogen.

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Last Modified: October 11, 2023
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Does Using Roundup Increase My Cancer Risk?

Roundup is a glyphosate-containing herbicide used in both agricultural settings and home gardens. In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disagreed in 2017, stating that glyphosate “is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” However, a large 2019 meta-analysis found that cancer risk increased by 41% through high cumulative exposure to glyphosate. Roundup labels don’t indicate this risk.

The type of exposure to Roundup may determine cancer risk. In the meta-analysis, researchers suggested that long-term exposure to relatively large amounts of glyphosate increased cancer risk. Additionally, long-term exposure to smaller amounts also seemed to increase the risk of specific cancers. Studies show that exposure to smaller amounts of glyphosate could cause immune and hormone system disruption, leading to other serious illnesses.

In 2020, petitioners challenged the EPA’s stance on glyphosate through the U.S. Court of Appeals, citing concerns over glyphosate’s human and ecological risks. Following this challenge, the Court of Appeals requested that the EPA re-evaluate its stance on whether glyphosate poses an environmental risk. As part of this review, the EPA will also re-evaluate the cancer risk of glyphosate.

Roundup and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is a cancer that affects the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system includes lymph vessels, nodes and organs that help fight off infections and disease. Lymph vessels transport lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. NHL begins in different kinds of lymphocytes, causing those cells to act abnormally or grow tumors called lymphomas.

A 2023 study found that glyphosate-containing herbicides increased the risk of NHL, including a specific type of cancer called hairy cell leukemia. In 2021, a review of numerous studies found evidence that GCH increased the risk for NHL and that the risk likely increases over years of exposure. In another report, combined data from 10 studies covering almost 20,000 individual cases found an increased risk of only one type of NHL, follicular lymphoma, but not other forms of NHL. Follicular lymphoma is a type of NHL that prompts the body’s production of abnormal B lymphocytes, an immune system cell. The study showed that follicular lymphoma risk may increase with high short-term exposure to GCHs.

Controversy surrounds the link between GCHs and cancer, including NHL, although most recent research suggests a link exists. One study claiming that glyphosate is not a carcinogen has been criticized for conflict of interest. Critics say the author consulted with or was paid by the GCH manufacturing industry. In response, the study’s author denied any conflict of interest and reasserted that glyphosate is not a human carcinogen. A 2020 meta-analysis also shows no increased risk for NHL with glyphosate exposure, although more recent research contradicts this finding.

Is Roundup Associated With Multiple Myeloma or Leukemia?

Leukemia and multiple myeloma are distinct forms of cancer, although they share some similarities with NHL. MM starts in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell. Plasma cells are part of the immune system and help protect the body from infection. Acute myeloid leukemia is a blood and bone marrow cancer affecting developing cells. Studies show mixed evidence linking glyphosate to either cancer.

Debate surrounds the connection between glyphosate and MM and AML. A 2021 research review indicated that NHL is the only cancer linked to glyphosate, but a 2017 study showed a possible link between glyphosate and AML. Experts recommend further research to confirm or disprove these connections.

The conflicting research around glyphosate and MM and AML may be partly because of genetic conditions predisposing certain people to cancer after exposure to the herbicide. A 2019 review found evidence that glyphosate causes mutations in certain cells, driving the risk of MM in some people. Although genetic differences may explain conflicting results, one author of the 2019 review stated that both NHL and MM have a “positive and statistically significant association with glyphosate.”

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Can Roundup Cause Parkinson’s Disease or Autism?

Parkinson’s disease affects the nervous system and parts of the brain that control body movements, thinking and speech. It is a progressive disorder that typically worsens over time. Autism disorder impacts how someone communicates and socializes with others. Autism disorders usually begin in infants under the age of 2.

A study from 2022 concludes that glyphosate crosses the blood-brain barrier and causes inflammation in the brain. This study also demonstrated how inflammation causes changes to brain cells that impact brain function, linking inflammation to brain disorders like autism. Glyphosate may also affect the nervous system by causing oxidative stress and increasing the damage of certain diseases and cell changes. Finally, glyphosate may also impact digestive system bacteria, increasing susceptibility to illnesses, including nervous system diseases.

Although a 2022 review of studies surrounding glyphosate and neurological disorders denies any connection, a case study published in 2019 argues otherwise. The case involved a 38-year-old man who developed early-onset Parkinson’s disease four years after ingesting glyphosate. Researchers concluded that the chemical may be linked to the development of Parkinson’s.

Exposure to glyphosate in the womb or after birth may increase a child’s risk of developing autism. A research article from 2020 indicates that the offspring of mice who experienced high levels of the herbicide during pregnancy showed behavioral abnormalities similar to autism along with changes to their gut bacteria. However, such a high level of exposure is unlikely in human populations. More research is needed before determining the strength of any potential link.

What Should I Do if I’ve Been Exposed to Roundup?

Most dangerous Roundup exposure incidents happen through ingestion, but inhalation poisoning has occurred. Short-term symptoms include skin and throat irritation, stomach upset, difficulty breathing, changes to mental state and kidney failure. If you suspect that you’re experiencing the symptoms of Roundup poisoning, call Poison Control or go to the emergency room. Do not force yourself to vomit unless advised to do so by a health care professional.

Signs and Symptoms of Roundup Poisoning
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coma
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Irritation of the mouth or throat
  • Kidney failure
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Slow heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Roundup poisoning can be serious and, in some cases, fatal. Short-term poisoning requires a visit to the ER. Long-term symptoms of exposure to Roundup may include elevated risks for certain cancers, including NHL and ML, and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and autism.

If you were exposed to Roundup and later diagnosed with cancer, you may be able to file a Roundup lawsuit against the manufacturer. If you think you have a case, speak with a lawyer who has experience in personal injury cases, particularly Roundup litigation. They can help secure compensation for medical expenses and lost wages. Litigation can result in verdicts or settlements, and you may have the option of joining a class-action suit. Roundup settlements can reach billions of dollars.

How Can I Prevent Roundup Exposure?

If someone uses Roundup nearby, be careful not to breathe in the product or let it contact your skin. Wear protective clothing, including gloves, a hat and glasses. Try to avoid being downwind of any spray application of Roundup. When using Roundup, always follow the package safety directions.

Consider Roundup alternatives that do not contain glyphosate. These products sometimes contain natural herbicides or pesticide ingredients, such as vinegar, salt and soap. Natural products can be very effective and safer for you and the environment.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.