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Title: Lung cancer mortality among nonsmoking uranium miners exposed to radon daughters

Abstract

Radon daughters, both in the workplace and in the household, are a continuing cause for concern because of the well-documented association between exposure to radon daughters and lung cancer. To estimate the risk of lung cancer mortality among nonsmokers exposed to varying levels of radon daughters, 516 white men who never smoked cigarettes, pipes, or cigars were selected from the US Public Health Service cohort of Colorado Plateau uranium miners and followed up from 1950 through 1984. Age-specific mortality rates for nonsmokers from a study of US veterans were used for comparison. Fourteen deaths from lung cancer were observed among the nonsmoking miners, while 1.1 deaths were expected, yielding a standardized mortality ratio of 12.7 with 95% confidence limits of 8.0 and 20.1. These results confirm that exposure to radon daughters in the absence of cigarette smoking is a potent carcinogen that should be strictly controlled.

Authors:
; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, OH (USA)
OSTI Identifier:
5596613
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: JAMA, J. Am. Med. Assoc.; (United States); Journal Volume: 262:5
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
63 RADIATION, THERMAL, AND OTHER ENVIRON. POLLUTANT EFFECTS ON LIVING ORGS. AND BIOL. MAT.; LUNGS; NEOPLASMS; RADIOINDUCTION; RADON; CARCINOGENESIS; COLORADO; DAUGHTER PRODUCTS; MORTALITY; OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE; RISK ASSESSMENT; TOBACCO SMOKES; URANIUM MINES; AEROSOLS; BODY; COLLOIDS; DISEASES; DISPERSIONS; ELEMENTS; FEDERAL REGION VIII; FLUIDS; GASES; ISOTOPES; MINES; NONMETALS; NORTH AMERICA; ORGANS; PATHOGENESIS; RARE GASES; RESIDUES; RESPIRATORY SYSTEM; SMOKES; SOLS; UNDERGROUND FACILITIES; USA; 560161* - Radionuclide Effects, Kinetics, & Toxicology- Man

Citation Formats

Roscoe, R.J., Steenland, K., Halperin, W.E., Beaumont, J.J., and Waxweiler, R.J. Lung cancer mortality among nonsmoking uranium miners exposed to radon daughters. United States: N. p., 1989. Web. doi:10.1001/jama.262.5.629.
Roscoe, R.J., Steenland, K., Halperin, W.E., Beaumont, J.J., & Waxweiler, R.J. Lung cancer mortality among nonsmoking uranium miners exposed to radon daughters. United States. doi:10.1001/jama.262.5.629.
Roscoe, R.J., Steenland, K., Halperin, W.E., Beaumont, J.J., and Waxweiler, R.J. Fri . "Lung cancer mortality among nonsmoking uranium miners exposed to radon daughters". United States. doi:10.1001/jama.262.5.629.
@article{osti_5596613,
title = {Lung cancer mortality among nonsmoking uranium miners exposed to radon daughters},
author = {Roscoe, R.J. and Steenland, K. and Halperin, W.E. and Beaumont, J.J. and Waxweiler, R.J.},
abstractNote = {Radon daughters, both in the workplace and in the household, are a continuing cause for concern because of the well-documented association between exposure to radon daughters and lung cancer. To estimate the risk of lung cancer mortality among nonsmokers exposed to varying levels of radon daughters, 516 white men who never smoked cigarettes, pipes, or cigars were selected from the US Public Health Service cohort of Colorado Plateau uranium miners and followed up from 1950 through 1984. Age-specific mortality rates for nonsmokers from a study of US veterans were used for comparison. Fourteen deaths from lung cancer were observed among the nonsmoking miners, while 1.1 deaths were expected, yielding a standardized mortality ratio of 12.7 with 95% confidence limits of 8.0 and 20.1. These results confirm that exposure to radon daughters in the absence of cigarette smoking is a potent carcinogen that should be strictly controlled.},
doi = {10.1001/jama.262.5.629},
journal = {JAMA, J. Am. Med. Assoc.; (United States)},
number = ,
volume = 262:5,
place = {United States},
year = {Fri Aug 04 00:00:00 EDT 1989},
month = {Fri Aug 04 00:00:00 EDT 1989}
}
  • Lung cancer mortality in a cohort of 4320 miners employed during 1948-1959 at the Jachymov and Horni Slavkov uranium mines in West Bohemia and followed until 1 January 1991 has been studied to gain a greater understanding of the consequences of exposure to radon and its progeny. Among men whose exposure rates never exceeded 10 working levels, excess relative risks per unit exposure were greater in younger men, and exposures received in the periods 15-24, 25-34 and 35+ years previously were found to have 47, 24 and 0% of the effect of exposures 5-14 years previously. Within this low-exposure-rate groupmore » excess relative risk increased linearly with time-weighted cumulative exposure and did not depend on exposure rate or duration of exposure. For men who spent less than 20% of their employment at the Jachymov mine the excess relative risk per working level month was 1.36% (95% confidence interval 0.52-3.54) in the baseline category (age group 55+ and exposure received 5-14 years previously). For men who spent more than 20% of their employment at Jachymov, the corresponding excess relative risk per working level month was higher by a factor of 1.80 (95% confidence interval 1.27-2.97). The difference may be due to the fact that men who spent more than 20% of their employment at Jachymov were exposed to the much higher levels of arsenic in the dust at the Jachymov mine than at other mines. When men with exposure rates above 10 working levels were included in the analysis, patterns of risk were complex and depended on both exposure rate and duration of exposure in addition to the factors mentioned above. If these findings are confirmed elsewhere, calculation of risk estimates for extrapolation to modern occupational or environmental exposures should be based on miners with exposure rates below about 10 working levels. Further investigation is desirable of the influence of dusts containing arsenic on lung cancer risk in miners exposed to radon. 19 refs., 4 figs., 5 tabs.« less
  • In a retrospective study, we investigated lung-cancer mortality from 1951 to 1976 in 1415 Swedish iron miners exposed to short-lived radioactive daughters of radon gas at concentrations leading to annual doses close to the currently accepted occupational limit. Fifty deaths from lung cancer were observed, as compared with 12.8 expected; expected rates were determined by a smoking-specific analysis based on data from a random sample of the Swedish male population. Among nonsmokers 18 deaths were observed, as compared with 1.8 expected; among current smokers and recent exsmokers 32 deaths were observed and 11.0 were expected. The effects of smoking andmore » exposure to alpha radiation from radon daughters were nearly additive. Comparison of lung-cancer risk coefficients from this study and from other cohort studies of underground miners showed good agreement. Exposure to radon daughters is a major medical problem is underground metal mining, but our results also indicate that exposure to radon daughters at home accounts for an appreciable number of cases of lung cancer in the general population.« less
  • A cohort study of the mortality experience (1950-1984) of 1,772 Newfoundland underground fluorspar miners occupationally exposed to high levels of radon daughters (mean dose = 382.8 working levels months) has been conducted. Observed numbers of cancers of the lung, salivary gland, and buccal cavity and pharynx were significantly elevated among these miners. A highly significant relation was noted between radon daughter exposure and risk of dying of lung cancer; the small numbers of salivary gland (n = 2) and buccal cavity and pharynx (n = 6) cancers precluded meaningful analysis of dose response. Attributable and relative risk coefficients for lungmore » cancer were estimated as 6.3 deaths per working level month per million person-years and 0.9% per working level month, respectively. Relative risk coefficients were highest for those first exposed before age 20 years. Cigarette smokers had relative and attributable risk coefficients comparable to those of nonsmokers. Relative risks fell sharply with age, whereas attributable risks were lowest in the youngest and oldest age groups. The results suggest that efforts to raise existing occupational exposure standards may be inappropriate.« less
  • This article documents the study of 383 cases of lung cancer in uranium miners and presents for the first time the relationship of radioactive radon gas and cigarette smoking. There is evidence that alpha radiation from radon gas at exposure levels above 465 working level months (WLM) is a strong contributor to the development of lung cancer. Cigarette smoking plays the most significant role in causing lung tumor; this is also noticed in nonminers who smoke cigarettes. A synergistic or additive effect of these two carcinogens is strongly suggested. The data indicate that small cell tumors develop in younger nonsmokingmore » miners exposed to radon levels above 465 WLM. Lung cancers develop in smoking miners at lower levels of radon exposure than in nonsmoking miners. Based on an average mining experience of 15 years, there is substantial evidence that the present maximum allowable limit of 0.3 working levels (WL), or 4 working level months (WLM) per year, is safe, representing a margin of safety of approximately 10:1. Furthermore, a comparison of these data with the radon levels in some homes, averaging in the neighborhood of 0.025 WL, would indicate that health risks at these levels are negligible. It is suggested that 20 picocuries/liter, which equals 0.10 WL, be the maximum allowable level in homes.« less
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