Mortality risk in the French cohort of uranium miners: extended follow-up 1946-1999

B Vacquier, S Caer, A Rogel, M Feurprier, M Tirmarche, C Luccioni, B Quesne, A Acker, D Laurier
Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2008, 65 (9): 597-604

OBJECTIVES: This paper presents the risk of death from lung cancer and from other causes of death for the French cohort of uranium miners through 1999 and estimates associations with radon exposure.

METHODS: The cohort includes men employed as uranium miners for at least 1 year between 1946 and 1990. For each miner, vital status and cause of death were obtained from the national registry, and radon exposure was reconstructed for each year. Standardised mortality ratios were computed with national mortality rates as references. Exposure-risk relationships were estimated by Poisson regression, with a linear excess relative risk (ERR) model and a 5-year lag.

RESULTS: The cohort included 5086 miners and 153 063 person-years of exposure. The mean duration of follow-up was 30.1 years. In all 4140 miners exposed to radon, the average cumulative exposure was 36.6 working level months (WLM). There were 1411 deaths of miners <85 years of age. The miners did not differ significantly in overall mortality from the general male population. The analysis confirmed an excess risk of lung cancer death (n = 159; SMR = 1.43; 95% CI: 1.22 to 1.68), which increased significantly with cumulative radon exposure (ERR per 100 WLM = 0.71; 95% CI: 0.29 to 1.35). The ERR per unit exposure was much higher after 1955, when the accuracy of exposure measurement improved substantially (ERR per 100 WLM = 2.00; 95% CI: 0.91 to 3.65). A significant excess of kidney cancer deaths was observed (n = 20; SMR = 2.0; 95% CI: 1.22 to 3.09), which was not associated with cumulative radon exposure. No excess was observed for other causes of death, except silicosis (n = 23; SMR = 7.12; 95% CI: 4.51 to 10.69).

CONCLUSIONS: The analysis confirmed the excess risk of death from lung cancer associated with low radon exposure. An excess risk of death from kidney cancer was also observed, apparently not associated with cumulative radon exposure.

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