A follow up study of 7261 white women from a meatcutters' union was conducted between July 1949 and December 1980. Proportional mortality ratio (PMR) and standardised mortality ratio (SMR) analyses, using the United States general population mortality rates, were conducted for the group as a whole and for subgroups defined according to the four main job categories in the meat industry, and a fifth category of workers from outside the industry but belonging to the same union (control group). At least a threefold risk of death was observed both for myeloid leukaemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas among workers in the meat department of retail food stores. No excess risk from these diseases was observed in the control group. SMRs of 4.56, 4.02, and 1.95, which were statistically significant, were observed for lung cancer among workers in chicken slaughtering plants, meatpacking plants, and retail food stores respectively. The lung cancer SMR for abattoir workers was 1.41 (not significant) and 1.11 for workers in non-meat companies. The role of potentially harmful exposures within the industry in the occurrence of these excesses is discussed.
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