The etiology of breast cancer is not fully understood. Environmental and occupational exposures may contribute to breast cancer risk.
We linked 324 job titles from the 1970 census of 892,591 Finnish women with incidence of breast cancer (23,638 cases) during 1971-1995. We converted job titles to 31 chemical and two ergonomic agents through a measurement-based, period-specific, national job-exposure matrix. Poisson regression models were fit to the data, with adjustment for birth cohort, follow-up period, socioeconomic status, mean number of children, mean age at first delivery, and turnover rate.
For premenopausal breast cancer, medium/high level of occupational exposure to ionizing radiation was associated with a standardized incidence ratio (SIR) of 1.3 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.7-2.5; trend P = 0.03). For postmenopausal breast cancer, we found on SIR of 1.2 (1.1-1.3) for low level and 1.4 (1.1-1.8) for medium/high level of ionizing radiation (trend P = 0.001); and an SIR 1.3 (1.1-1.7) for medium/high levels of both asbestos and man-made vitreous fibers. Aromatic hydrocarbon solvents showed a significant trend for a modest excess of postmenopausal breast cancer.
Our study indicates that occupational exposure to ionizing radiation may be associated with an increased risk of female breast cancer. High-quality studies on environmental and occupational etiology of breast cancer are needed for further elucidation of risk factors.
No single occupational or environmental agent has been established as causing ovarian cancer, existing studies often being based on ecologic or proportional mortality data in which potential confounders related to reproductive history have not been taken into account.
This study linked 324 job titles of occupationally active Finnish women (n = 892,591) at 1970 census with incidence of ovarian cancer (Finnish Cancer Registry, 5,072 cases) during 1971-1995 (over 15 million person-years). The job titles were converted into indicators of exposure to 33 agents, using a national job-exposure matrix based on measurements and surveys (FINJEM). Poisson regression analyses were performed with stratification by birth cohort, follow-up period, and socioeconomic status, and adjusted for mean number of children, mean age at first delivery, and turnover rate for each job title.
We found indications of elevated risks for aromatic hydrocarbon solvents (standardized incidence ratio 1.3 (95% CI 1.0-1.7), leather dust (1.4; 0.7-2.7), man-made vitreous fibers (1.3; 0.9-1.8), and high levels of asbestos (1.3; 0.9-1.8), and diesel (1.7; 0.7-4.1), and gasoline (1.5; 1.0-2.0) engine exhausts). Previously reported findings for hairdressers and women in the printing industry were supported in our data, but not for women in dry cleaning jobs.
Given the various drawbacks in linkage studies and job-exposure matrices, the excesses found in this study need confirmation in individual-level studies.