This paper draws together the mortality experience for a cohort of some 11000 male Quebec Chrysotile miners and millers, reported at intervals since 1971 and now again updated. Of the 10918 men in the complete cohort, 1138 were lost to view, almost all never traced after employment of only a month or two before 1935; the other 9780 men were traced into 1992. Of these, 8009 (82%) are known to have died: 657 from lung cancer, 38 from mesotheliona, 1205 from other malignant disease, 108 from pneumoconiosis and 561 from other non-malignant respiratory diseases (excluding tuberculosis). After early fluctuations. SMRs (all causes) against Quebec rates have been reasonably steady since about 1945. For men first employed in Asbestos, mine or factory, they were very much what might have been expected for a blue collar population without any hazardous exposure. SMRs in the Thetford Mines area were almost 8% higher, but in line with anecdotal evidence concerning socio-economic status. At exposures below 300 (million particles per cubic foot) x years, (mpcf.y), equivalent to roughly 1000 (fibres/ml) x years-or, say, 10 years in the 1940s at 80 (fibres/ml)-findings were as follows. There were no discernible associations of degree of exposure and SMRs, whether for all causes of death or for all the specific cancer sites examined. The average SMRs were 1.07 (all causes), and 1.16, 0.93, 1.03 and 1.21, respectively, for gastric, other abdominal, laryngeal and lung cancer. Men whose exposures were less then 300 mpcf.y suffered almost one-half of the 146 deaths from pneumoconiosis or mesothelioma; the elimination of these two causes would have reduced these men's SMR (all causes) from 1.07 to approximately 1.06. Thus it is concluded from the viewpoint of mortality that exposure in this industry to less than 300 mpcf.y has been essentially innocuous, although there was a small risk or pneumoconiosis or mesothelioma. Higher exposures have, however, led to excesses, increasing with degree of exposure, of mortality from all causes, and from lung cancer and stomach cancer, but such exposures, of at least 300 mpcf.y, are several orders of magnitude more severe than any that have been seen for many years. The effects of cigarette smoking were much more deleterious than those of dust exposure, not only for lung cancer (the SMR for smokers of 20+ cigarettes a day being 4.6 times higher than that for non-smokers), but also for stomach cancer (2.0 times higher), laryngeal cancer (2.9 times higher), and-most importantly-for all causes (1.6 times higher).
Comment In: Ann Occup Hyg. 1997 Jan;41(1):3-129072948
Comment In: Ann Occup Hyg. 2001 Jun;45(4):329-35; author reply 336-811414250
A cohort of some 11,000 men born 1891-1920 and employed for at least one month in the chrysotile mines and mills of Quebec, was established in 1966 and has been followed ever since. Of the 5351 men surviving into 1976, only 16 could not be traced; 2508 were still alive in 1989, and 2827 had died; by the end of 1992 a further 698 were known to have died, giving an overall mortality of almost 80%. This paper presents the results of analysis of mortality for the period 1976 to 1988 inclusive, obtained by the subject-years method, with Quebec mortality for reference. In many respects the standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) 20 years or more after first employment were similar to those for the period 1951-75--namely, all causes 1.07 (1951-75, 1.09); heart disease 1.02 (1.04); cerebrovascular disease 1.06 (1.07); external causes 1.17 (1.17). The SMR for lung cancer, however, rose from 1.25 to 1.39 and deaths from mesothelioma increased from eight (10 before review) to 25; deaths from respiratory tuberculosis fell from 57 to five. Among men whose exposure by age 55 was at least 300 million particles per cubic foot x years (mpcf.y), the SMR (all causes) was elevated in the two main mining regions, Asbestos and Thetford Mines, and for the small factory in Asbestos; so were the SMRs for lung cancer, ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and respiratory disease other than pneumoconiosis. Except for lung cancer, however, there was little convincing evidence of gradients over four classes of exposure, divided at 30, 100, and 300 mpcf.y. Over seven narrower categories of exposure up to 300 mpcf.y the SMR for lung cancer fluctuated around 1.27 with no indication of trend, but increased steeply above that level. Mortality form pneumoconiosis was strongly related to exposure, and the trend for mesothelioma was not dissimilar. Mortality generally was related systematically to cigarette smoking habit, recorded in life from 99% of survivors into 1976; smokers of 20 or more cigarettes a day had the highest SMRs not only for lung cancer but also for all causes, cancer of the stomach, pancreas, and larynx, and ischaemic heart disease. For lung cancer SMRs increased fivefold with smoking, but the increase with dust exposure was comparatively slight for non-smokers, lower again for ex-smokers, and negligible for smokers of at least 20 cigarettes a day; thus the asbestos-smoking interaction was less than multiplicative. Of the 33 deaths from mesothelioma in the cohort to date, 28 were in miners and millers and five were in employees of a small asbestos products factory where commercial amphiboles had also been used. Preliminary analysis also suggest that the risk of mesothelioma was higher in the mines and mills at Thetford Mines than in those at Asbestos. More detailed studies of these differences and of exposure-response relations for lung cancer are under way.
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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.
A cohort of 54,128 men who worked in Ontario mines was observed for mortality between 1955 and 1986. Most of these men worked in nickel, gold, or uranium mines; a few worked in silver, iron, lead/zinc, or other ore mines. If mortality that occurred after a man had started to mine uranium was excluded, an excess of carcinoma of the lung was found among the 13,603 Ontario gold miners in the study (standardised mortality ratio (SMR) 129, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 115-145) and in men who began to mine nickel before 1936 (SMR 141, 95% CI 105-184). The excess mortality from lung cancer in the gold miners was confined to men who began gold mining before 1946. No increase in the mortality from carcinoma of the lung was evident in men who began mining gold after the end of 1945, in men who began mining nickel after 1936, or in men who mined ores other than gold, nickel, and uranium. In the gold mines each year of employment before the end of 1945 was associated with a 6.5% increase in mortality from lung cancer 20 or more years after the miner began working the mines (95% CI 1.6-11.4%); each year of employment before the end of 1945 in mines in which the host rock contained 0.1% arsenic was associated with a 3.1% increase in lung cancer 20 years or more after exposure began (95% CI 1.1-5.1%); and each working level month of exposure to radon decay products was associated with a 1.2% increase in mortality from lung cancer five or more years after exposure began (95% CI 0.02-2.4%). A comparison of two models shows that the excess of lung cancer mortality in Ontario gold miners is associated with exposure to high dust concentrations before 1946, with exposure to arsenic before 1946, and with exposure to radon decay products. No association between the increased incidence of carcinoma of the lung in Ontario gold miners and exposure to mineral fibre could be detected. It is concluded that the excess of carcinoma of the lung in Ontario gold miners is probably due to exposure to arsenic and radon decay products.
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Miners working in deep coal mines, engaged in hard physical work under most harsh mine conditions demonstrate a striking imbalance between pro- and antiinflammatory cytokines and a rise in the blood levels of electrolytes K+ and Na+ as well. The analysis performed revealed a direct correlation between the level of blood concentration of IL-6 and that of K+, Na+.
Exposure to the radioactive daughters of radon is associated with increased risk of lung cancer in mining populations. An investigation of incidence of lung cancer following a clinical survey of Ontario uranium miners was undertaken to explore whether risk associated with radon is modified by factors including smoking, radiographic silicosis, clinical symptoms, the results of lung function testing, and the temporal pattern of radon exposure.
Miners were examined in 1974 by a respiratory questionnaire, tests of lung function, and chest radiography. A random selection of 733 (75%) of the original 973 participants was followed up by linkage to the Ontario Mortality and Cancer Registries.
Incidence of lung cancer was increased threefold. Risk of lung cancer among miners who had stopped smoking was half that of men who continued to smoke. There was no interaction between smoking and radon exposure. Men with lung function test results consistent with airways obstruction had an increased risk of lung cancer, even after adjustment for cigarette smoking. There was no association between radiographic silicosis and risk of lung cancer. Lung cancer was associated with exposures to radon daughters accumulated in a time window four to 14 years before diagnosis, but there was little association with exposures incurred earlier than 14 years before diagnosis. Among the men diagnosed with lung cancer, the mean and median dose rates were 2.6 working level months (WLM) a year and 1.8 WLM/year in the four to 14 year exposure window.
Risk of lung cancer associated with radon is modified by dose and time from exposure. Risk can be substantially decreased by stopping smoking.
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Although it is well known that both cigarette smoke and microscopic airborne asbestos fibres can cause lung cancer, evidence as to how these two agents combine is nebulous. Many workers have believed in the multiplicative theory, whereby asbestos increases the risk in proportion to the risk from other causes. However, evidence against this theory is mounting: a recent review concluded that the multiplicative hypothesis was untenable, and that the relative risk of lung cancer from asbestos exposure was about twice as high in non-smokers as in smokers, a finding largely independent of type of asbestos fibre. The criteria for entry to the current study were met by 7279 men in the 1891-1920 birth cohort of Quebec chrysotile miners and millers. The data consisted of date of birth, place of employment, smoking habit, asbestos exposure accumulated to age 55 and, for those 5527 who died between 1950 and June 1992, date and cause of death; 533 of the deaths were from lung cancer. For the principal analyses, ex-smokers were excluded from the study cohort, which comprised 5888 men, of whom 473 died of lung cancer. The conventional form of analysis is simply of the double dichotomy: non-smokers of cigarettes, 'unexposed' and exposed; all others, 'unexposed' and exposed. The respective standardized lung cancer mortality ratios (SMRs) were 0.29 and 0.62; and 1.37 and 1.72. Thus, the differences in relative risk, due to exposure, were closely similar, 0.33 and 0.35. On the other hand, the effects of asbestos measured by the corresponding ratios, 2.12 and 1.25, did differ, being 1.7 times as high in non-smokers as in others. The principal analysis was much more penetrating: the method was to fit models to a 'disaggregated' 6 x 10 array, by smoking habit (excluding ex-smokers) and asbestos exposure, of lung cancer SMRs. Both linear and log-linear models were fitted: the former included the additive and linear-multiplicative; the latter embraced the more conventional multiplicative form. The additive model fitted much the best. The fit of each multiplicative model was improved by the introduction of an interaction term that implied a less than multiplicative relationship. Thus smoking and exposure to chrysotile appear to have acted independently in causing lung cancer, with 10 cigarettes a day having an effect roughly equivalent to exposure amounting to 700 million particles per cubic foot x years. The refutation of the multiplicative hypothesis in these data reinforces its inapplicability in general; but the additive hypothesis is not generally applicable either. Indeed, there seems to be no good reason to believe that interactions conform to any simple theory. The implications are important.
The authors examined the components and modifiers of the healthy worker effect using mortality data from three occupational cohorts: the employees of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited followed between 1950 and 1981, a 10% sample of the Canadian labor force followed between 1965 and 1979, and workers at the Eldorado Resources Limited Beaverlodge uranium mine followed between 1950 and 1980. Two important components of the healthy worker effect have been identified in these cohorts, namely, initial selection of and continuing employment of healthy individuals. There is less evidence for a contribution from the existence of differential risk factors among employed individuals as compared with the general population. The healthy worker effect is, however, substantially modified by time since employment, sex, age, specific cause of death, and specific occupation. Because of this variation, it is inappropriate to account for the healthy worker effect by a single parameter, and all of the above factors must be taken into account in any appropriate analysis. When the only available comparison group for an occupational cohort is the general population, the healthy worker effect is unlikely to have any substantial influence on the process of assessing causality for any observed association or attributing cause in an individual case. This would be particularly true for cancer, and even more so for lung cancer, a disease often associated with industrial compensation cases.