UNMC researchers highlight cancer risks for Nebraska farmers

A recent study by UNMC researchers showed low numbers of cancer screenings, as well as high instances of “cancer risk behaviors,” among Nebraska’s farmers. 

The study was published in the December issue of the Journal of Rural Health. 

Evi Farazi, PhD

“Our research highlights some disparities in cancer screening and risk and preventive behaviors among farmers in Nebraska, which should be addressed through targeted interventions,” said Evi Farazi, PhD, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology in the UNMC College of Public Health, Tim Hawks Chair in Cancer Prevention and Population Science and principal investigator of the study. 

“The results should be disseminated to the farmer population to raise awareness regarding cancer screening and risk behaviors that could be improved,” Dr. Farazi said. 

In 2019, a statewide, cross-sectional survey of ranchers and farmers was administered to determine predictors of cancer risky and preventive behaviors.  

Of the 1,667 surveys mailed, researchers with the UNMC College of Public Health and Fred & Pamela Buffet Cancer Center Community Outreach and Engagement office, received 782 completed or partially completed surveys revealing a pattern of risky behaviors that could contribute to cancer development. 

Cancer risk behaviors revealed in the study included:  

  • Not meeting the daily recommended consumption of fruits and vegetables  
  • Not meeting recommended physical activity guidelines
  • Tanning bed use
  • Smoking and  
  • Alcohol consumption

The research team also looked at how many of the respondents had taken part in cancer screenings for such things as: 

  • Colon cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Breast cancer and 
  • Skin cancer

“There also were some disparities with regards to unhealthy behaviors and being up to date with screening, with more men reporting heavy alcohol consumption and ever smoking 100 or more cigarettes, more individuals with higher income reporting being current with skin cancer screening and more older men being current with prostate cancer screening,” Dr. Farazi said. 

The next steps in this project include: 

  • Comparison with Nebraska non-farming population data; and   
  • A methodological paper to obtain better population-based estimates of cancer risky and preventable behavior among farmers.  

“This project is a strong example of how the collaborative efforts of the UNMC College of Public Health can contribute the overall mission of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center Community Outreach and Engagement office,” said Shinobu Watanabe-Galloway, PhD, associate director of Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center Community Outreach and Engagement and professor of epidemiology in the UNMC College of Public Health. 


  1. Patricia says:

    Where I live in the central part of the state, in one square mile, there have been five individuals diagnosed with cancer. Two farmers diagnosed with prostate cancer, one individual with bone cancer, two with breast cancer. One with breast cancer later diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

  2. Becky Grosserode says:

    Thank you for researching health behaviors in our rural communities. This is such an important area.

  3. David Snow says:

    There’s way too much chemicals sprayed out here on the fields and the roads (winter de-iceing)
    Can we not come up with something better ?

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