OBJECTIVE: To update the mortality experience of a cohort of 8508 workers with potential exposure to acrylamide at three plants in the United States from 1984-94. METHODS: Analyses of standardised mortality ratios (SMR) with national and local rates and relative risk (RR) regression modelling were performed to assess site specific cancer risks by demographic and work history factors, and exposure indicators for acrylamide and muriatic acid. RESULTS: For the 1925-94 study period, excess and deficit overall mortality risks were found for cancer sites of interest: brain and other central nervous system (CNS) (SMR 0.65, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.36 to 1.09), thyroid gland (SMR 2.11, 95% CI 0.44 to 6.17), testis and other male genital organs (SMR 0.28, 95% CI 0.01 to 1.59), and cancer of the respiratory system (SMR 1.10, 95% CI 0.99 to 1.22); however, none was significant or associated with exposure to acrylamide. A previously reported excess mortality risk of cancer of the respiratory system at one plant remained increased among workers with potential exposure to muriatic acid (RR 1.50, 95% CI 0.86 to 2.59), but was only slightly increased among workers exposed or unexposed to acrylamide. In an exploratory exposure-response analysis of rectal, oesophageal, pancreatic, and kidney cancer, we found increased SMRs for some categories of exposure to acrylamide, but little evidence of an exposure-response relation. A significant 2.26-fold risk (95% CI 1.03 to 4.29) was found for pancreatic cancer among workers with cumulative exposure to acrylamide > 0.30 mg/m3.years; however, no consistent exposure-response relations were detected with the exposure measures considered when RR regression models were adjusted for time since first exposure to acrylamide. CONCLUSION: The contribution of 1115 additional deaths and nearly 60,000 person-years over the 11 year follow up period corroborate the original cohort study findings of little evidence for a causal relation between exposure to acrylamide and mortality from any cancer sites, including those of initial interest. This is the most definitive study of the human carcinogenic potential of exposure to acrylamide conducted to date.
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