A cohort of 736 male and 167 female workers of two anthophyllite mines in Finland was followed up through the Finnish Cancer Registry for cancer in 1953-91. Compared with the total cancer incidence of the east Finnish population, the men had a raised risk of total cancer (standardised incidence ratio (SIR) 1.7; 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.4-1.9), mainly attributable to an excess in lung cancer (SIR 2.8; 95% CI 2.2-3.6). The risk of lung cancer was somewhat higher among workers classified as heavily exposed (SIR 3.2; 95% CI 2.4-4.1) than among those moderately exposed (SIR 2.3; 95% CI 1.5-3.6) and the risk increased with increasing smoking and with increasing time of work with exposure. There were four cases of mesothelioma v 0.1 expected, all in men who smoked and had had a long and heavy asbestos exposure. Among women, a non-significant excess in total cancer (SIR 1.5; 95% CI 0.9-2.4) was found in the subgroup with heavy exposure to asbestos. Anthophyllite asbestos seems to have high potency in the carcinogenesis of lung cancer and low potency in carcinogenesis of mesothelioma in comparison with the other types of asbestos.
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