In a cohort study of the incidence of cancer and mortality among 7996 men and 584 women employed in the Danish asbestos cement industry between 1928 and 1984 over 99% were traced. Chrysotile asbestos was the only fibre type used until 1946, when amosite and (in 1952) crocidolite were also introduced. Chrysotile constituted 89%, amosite 10%, and crocidolite 1% of the asbestos used. During the first 25 years of manufacture the exposure levels were high, especially in areas where the asbestos was handled dry. Measurements from 1948 indicate that the fibre levels may have ranged from 100 to 1600 times over the present Danish threshold limit value of 0.5 fibre/ml. In 1973 more than 41% of personal samples were higher than 2 f/ml. About 76% of the workforce left the factory within five years of starting employment. A total of 1346 deaths and 612 cases of cancer were observed in the cohort between 1943 and 1984. Among employed men the overall mortality (O/E 1.18; 95% CI 1.12-1.25), cancer mortality (O/E 1.32; 95% CI 1.19-1.46), and overall incidence of cancer (O/E 1.22; 95% CI 1.12-1.32) were significantly increased compared with all Danish men. This was not so among employed women. For men, significant excess risks were found for cancer of the lung (O/E 1.80; 95% CI 1.54-2.10), pleura (O/E 5.46; 95% CI 2.62-10.05), mediastinum (O/E 5.00; 95% CI 1.01-14.61), stomach (O/E 1.43; 95% CI 1.03-1.93), and other male genital organs (O/E 3.03; 95% CI 1.11-6.60). The mortality was significantly increased for men for non-malignant pulmonary diseases (O/E 1.63; 95% CI 1.33-1.98). Among the group of asbestos cement workers with first employment 1928-40 an excess risk of laryngeal cancer was found (O/E 5.50;95% CI 1.77-12.82). A total of 12 cases of pleural and one of peritoneal mesotheliomas was observed when the original notification forms were reviewed for all patients with cancer in the cohort.
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