IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


8th November, 2023 Health


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Picture Courtesy: massivebio.com

Context: The study conducted by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, highlights concerning connections between the rapid increase in soy production in Brazil's Amazon and Cerrado biomes and an uptick in pediatric deaths from cancer, specifically acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).


  • The Study findings reveal a significant correlation between the rise in soy production and ALL deaths in children between 2008 and 2019. The study also underscores the role of pesticide exposure, likely occurring through water supply penetration, in contributing to these health issues.

Key points from the study

  • Soy production in Brazil's Amazon and Cerrado biomes has surged up to 20 times in the past two decades.
  • The expansion of soy farming has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in pesticide use, with associated health risks.
  • The researchers found a statistically significant correlation between the rise in soy production and ALL deaths in children. A 10% point increase in soy plantation area was associated with additional deaths from ALL in children under the age of five and under 10.
  • Pesticide exposure, likely due to contaminated water supplies, was linked to an increased likelihood of pediatric ALL deaths. Access to timely treatment mitigated some of the risks.
  • The study serves as a cautionary tale not isolated to Brazil, highlighting risks associated with fast-paced agricultural intensification worldwide. Balancing the need for productive agriculture with mitigating potential health risks is crucial for global food security efforts.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

  • Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), also known as acute lymphocytic leukaemia, is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.
  • It primarily affects lymphoid cells, which are a type of white blood cell involved in the immune system.

Origin and Growth

In ALL, immature white blood cells called lymphoblasts multiply rapidly in the bone marrow and blood. These abnormal cells crowd out healthy blood cells, leading to a decreased production of red blood cells, platelets, and normal white blood cells.


The symptoms of ALL can vary, but common signs may include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, frequent infections, easy bruising or bleeding, bone pain, swollen lymph nodes, and an enlarged spleen.


Diagnosis typically involves a combination of blood tests, bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, and imaging studies to assess the extent of the disease.

Genetic and chromosomal analysis may also be performed to determine the subtype of ALL.


ALL can be classified into different subtypes based on the specific type of lymphoblast involved (B-cell or T-cell) and various genetic markers. These subtypes can affect the prognosis and treatment approach.


The treatment for ALL often involves a combination of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and stem cell transplantation, depending on the subtype, age of the patient, and other factors.

The goal is to induce remission, eliminate cancer cells, and prevent relapse.


The prognosis for ALL can vary depending on various factors, including the age of the patient, the subtype of ALL, and how quickly the disease was diagnosed and treated. Advances in treatment have improved survival rates, especially in children.

Supportive Care

Patients with ALL may require supportive care to manage symptoms and side effects of treatment, such as infections, anaemia, and bleeding. This can include blood transfusions, antibiotics, and other supportive therapies.

After treatment, patients often require long-term follow-up to monitor for any signs of relapse and to manage potential late effects of treatment.


  • The study underscores the urgent need for policy changes and public health interventions to address the adverse health effects associated with rapid agricultural expansion and pesticide use, emphasizing the importance of finding a balance between agricultural productivity and environmental and human well-being.


Q. What are the key factors contributing to the alarming increase in cancer cases in India, and what measures are being taken at the national level to address this growing public health concern?