OBJECTIVES: To study the carcinogenicity of inorganic mercury in humans. METHODS: We studied the mortality from cancer among 6784 male and 265 female workers of four mercury mines and mills in Spain, Slovenia, Italy and the Ukraine. Workers were employed between the beginning of the century and 1990; the follow-up period lasted from the 1950s to the 1990s. We compared the mortality of the workers with national reference rates. RESULTS: Among men, there was no overall excess cancer mortality; an increase was observed in mortality from lung cancer (standardized mortality ratio [SMR] 1.19, 95 percent confidence interval [CI] 1.03-1.38) and liver cancer (SMR 1.64, CI 1.18-2.22). The increase in lung cancer risk was restricted to workers from Slovenia and the Ukraine: no relationship was found with duration of employment or estimated mercu ry exposure. The increase in liver cancer risk was present both among miners and millers and was stronger in workers from Italy and Slovenia: there was a trend with estimated cumulative exposure but not with duration of employment, and the excess was not present in a parallel analysis of cancer incidence among workers from Slovenia. No increase was observed for other types of cancer, including brain and kidney tumours. Among female workers (Ukraine only), three deaths occurred from ovarian cancer, likely representing an excess. CONCLUSIONS: Exposure to inorganic mercury in mines and mills does not seem strongly associated with cancer risk, with the possible exception of liver cancer; the increase in lung cancer may be explained by co-exposure to crystalline silica and radon.
INTRODUCTION: Data on the survival of all incident cases collected by population-based cancer registries make it possible to evaluate the overall performance of diagnostic and therapeutic actions on cancer in those populations. EUROCARE-3 is the third round of the EUROCARE project, the largest cancer registry population based collaborative study on survival in European cancer patients. The EUROCARE-3 study analysed the survival of cancer patients diagnosed from 1990 to 1994 and followed-up to 1999. Sixty-seven cancer registries of 22 European countries characterised by differing health systems participated in the study. This paper includes essays providing brief overviews of the state and evolution of the health systems of the considered countries and comments on the relation between cancer survival in Europe and some European macro-economic and health system indicators, in the 1990s. OVERVIEW OF THE EUROPEAN HEALTH SYSTEMS: The European health systems underwent a great deal of reorganisation in the last decade; a general tendency being to facilitate expanding involvement of the private sector in health care, a process which occurred mainly in the eastern countries (i.e. the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia). In contrast, organisational changes in the northern European countries (i.e. Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Sweden) tended to confirm the established public sector systems. Other countries, including the UK and some southern European countries (i.e. England, Scotland, Wales, Malta and Italy) have reduced the public role while the systems remain basically public, at least at present. Our findings clearly suggest that cancer survival (all cancer combined) is related to macro-economic variables such as the gross domestic product (GDP), the total national (public and private) expenditure on health (TNEH) and the total public expenditure on health (TPEH). We found, however, that survival is related to wealth (GDP), but only up to a certain level, after which survival continues to be related to the level of health investment (both TNEH and TPEH). According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the TNEH increased during the 1990s in all EUROCARE-3 countries, while the ratio of TPEH to TNEH reduced in all countries except Portugal. CONCLUSIONS: Cancer survival depends on the widespread application of effective diagnosis and treatment modalities, but our enquiry suggests that the availability of these depends on macro-economic determinants, including health and public health investment. Analysis of the relationship between health system organisation and cancer outcome is complicated and requires more information than is at present available. To describe cancer and cancer management in Europe, the European Cancer Health Indicator Project (EUROCHIP) has proposed a list of indicators that have to be adopted to evaluate the effects on outcome of proposed health system modifications.
OBJECTIVE: To study the mortality from cardiovascular and other chronic non-neoplastic diseases after long term exposure to inorganic mercury. Limited information is available on the effect of chronic exposure to mercury on the cardiovascular system. METHODS: The mortality was studied among 6784 male and 265 female workers from four mercury mines and mills in Spain, Slovenia, Italy, and the Ukraine. Workers were employed between 1900 and 1990; the follow up period lasted from the 1950s to the 1990s. The mortality of the workers was compared with national reference rates. RESULTS: Among men, there was a slight increase in overall mortality (standardised mortality ratio (SMR) 1.08, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.04 to 1.12). An increased mortality was found from hypertension (SMR 1.46, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.93), heart diseases other than ischaemic (SMR 1.36, 95% CI 1.20 to 1.53), pneumoconiosis (SMR 27.1, 95% CI 23.1 to 31.6), and nephritis and nephrosis (SMR 1.55, 95% CI 1.13 to 2.06). The increase in mortality from cardiovascular diseases was not consistent among countries. Mortality from hypertension and other heart diseases increased with estimated cumulative exposure to mercury; mortality from ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases increased with duration of employment, but not with estimated exposure to mercury. Results among women were hampered by few deaths. CONCLUSION: Despite limited quantitative data on exposure, possible confounding, and likely misclassification of disease, the study suggests a possible association between employment in mercury mining and refining and risk in some groups of cardiovascular diseases.
Comment In: Occup Environ Med. 2002 Jul;59(7):49412107303