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Industry based cohorts 1
  1. T. Behrens1,
  2. W. Schill1,
  3. P. Wild2,
  4. R. Frentzel-Beyme1,
  5. W. Ahrens1
  1. 1Bremen Institute for Prevention Research and Social Medicine
  2. 2Department of Occupational Epidemiology, Institut National de Recherche et Sécurité

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    Fumes from heated bitumen have been associated with various types of cancer, including cancer of the lung. However, epidemiological studies conducted so far yielded only equivocal results. To study the mortality of asphalt workers, the IARC assembled an international cohort of workers employed in the asphalt industry. Here we report the mortality data of the German cohort updated to 2004.


    German asphalt workers with potential bitumen exposure, employed between 1965 and 1997 for at least 1 year, were included in the cohort. Standardised mortality ratios (SMR) and 95% CI were calculated, based on age and period-specific reference data for the West German male population. Bitumen exposed and unexposed subjects were compared, calculating the relative risk by Poisson regression and adjusting for age and period.


    7919 male workers were included in the follow-up, contributing 132 200 person years of observation. Based on company information, subjects were classified as exposed to bitumen (n = 2535), to bitumen and (potentially) coal tar (n = 832), and to neither tar or bitumen (n = 2737). 1873 workers were classified as having unknown exposure. By the end of 2004, 835 cohort members had died (SMR 1.27; 95% CI 1.19 to 1.36). The SMR for deaths from lung cancer was 1.77; 95% CI 1.46 to 2.16). Head and neck cancers (defined as oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal or oesophageal cancer showed an SMR of 2.36; 95% CI 1.78 to 3.07). Significantly elevated SMRs were also found for all malignant tumours, alcoholism, and unnatural causes of death (including accidents). Lagged analyses of bitumen exposure delivered ambiguous results. When we stratified the cohort according to bitumen exposure, no clear mortality pattern emerged. Cancer mortality was significantly elevated among both the exposed and unexposed subjects. The internal comparison between bitumen-exposed and unexposed workers revealed elevated, but non-significant associations for lung cancer.


    The cohort follow-up confirmed previous results of …

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