Background: Subjects who work in poultry slaughtering and processing plants have one of the highest human exposures to viruses that cause cancer in chickens and turkeys. It is not known whether these viruses cause cancer in humans also. Epidemiological studies investigating this issue are scarce.
Aims and Methods: Mortality was studied during the period 1969–90 in a cohort of 7700 subjects who worked in poultry slaughtering and processing plants and were members of a local poultry union in the State of Missouri.
Results and Conclusions: Statistically significant excess risks of non-malignant respiratory diseases, accidents, and symptoms, senility, and ill-defined conditions, and increased but not statistically significant excesses for some cancers were observed in particular race/sex groups. Most of these results were based on small numbers of deaths, and in many cases were evident only in particular subgroups of the cohort. Because of this and the multiple comparisons made, chance could not be ruled out in explaining the findings. Furthermore, the cohort is young, with only 6% deceased at the end of follow up. Further follow up of this cohort is required before a reliable assessment of the potential risk associated with these viruses can be made.
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