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Respiratory cancer in relation to occupational exposures among retired asbestos workers
  1. Philip Enterline,
  2. Pierre De Coufle2,
  3. Vivian Henderson
  1. aDepartment of Biostatistics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.


    Enterline, P., de Coufle, P., and Henderson, V. (1973).British Journal of Industrial Medicine,30, 162-166. Respiratory cancer in relation to occupational exposures among retired asbestos worker. A cohort of 1 348 men who completed their working lifetime in the asbestos industry and retired with an industry pension during the period 1941-67 was observed through 1969 for deaths. The average length of employment in the asbestos industry for these men was 25 years and all had exposures to asbestos dust. In some instances these exposures were very high and continued for many years. Mortality for this cohort of men after age 65 was 14·7% higher than for the entire population of United States white men living at the same ages and time periods. This excess was due almost entirely to cancer and respiratory disease. The cancer excess was chiefly due to respiratory cancer where mortality was 2·7 times the expected. The respiratory disease excess was entirely due to asbestosis.

    A time-weighted measure of asbestos dust exposure at the time of retirement was calculated for each man. This was made up of the summed products of dust levels for each job (expressed in mppcf) and years at each level. This measure was directly related to the respiratory cancer excess at ages 65 and over, ranging from 1·7 times expected for men with less than 125 mppcf-years exposure to 5·6 times expected for men with 750 or more mppcf-years exposure. There appeared to be no direct relationship between asbestos dust exposure and respiratory cancer below 125 mppcf-years. Important increments in respiratory cancer mortality apparently occurred somewhere between 100 and 200 mppcf-years exposure.

    Separation of the effects of time from the effects of average dust level on respiratory cancer mortality showed that the contribution of each was about the same and that a time-weighted measure of asbestos dust appears to be an appropriate method for predicting respiratory cancer effects.

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    • 2 Currently with the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

    • 1 A revision of a paper read on 9 February 1972 at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Occupational Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.