Objectives Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer and is estimated to cause nearly 20 000 deaths per year in the United States. Studies of underground miners, who often were exposed to high concentrations of radon, have been used to estimate public health impacts of domestic radon exposure. The healthy worker survivor bias - a condition resulting when individuals in relatively good health tend to work longer and thus become more exposed than individuals in relatively poor health - may be influencing estimates of occupational radon impacts on lung cancer, but this bias has not been thoroughly explored.
Method We implement G-estimation of a structural nested accelerated failure time model to adjust for time-varying confounding by employment history to partially control the healthy worker survivor bias in the Colorado Plateau uranium miners cohort.
Results 615 miners in our cohort died of lung cancer. Assuming no time-varying confounding, we estimate a time ratio (95% confidence intervals) per 1000 working level months of exposure of 1.55 (1.53, 1.58), and 1.95 (1.86, 2.04) when to control healthy worker survivor bias, a relative increase of 126%. Estimates of the radon-associated excess cases were 118 under standard methods and 179 when we controlled for the healthy worker survivor bias.
Conclusions There is evidence of a healthy worker survivor bias in standard analyses of the radon-lung cancer association in this cohort. The findings suggest need for further consideration of current estimates of the health impact of radon in occupational and environmental settings.
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