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Increased risk of oesophageal adenocarcinoma among upstream petroleum workers
  1. Jorunn Kirkeleit1,2,
  2. Trond Riise1,3,
  3. Tone Bjørge1,
  4. Bente E Moen1,
  5. Magne Bråtveit1,
  6. David C Christiani2,3
  1. 1Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
  2. 2Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Jorunn Kirkeleit, Research Group for Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, University of Bergen, PO Box 7804, N-5020 Bergen, Norway; Jorunn.Kirkeleit{at}


Objectives To investigate cancer risk, particularly oesophageal cancer, among male upstream petroleum workers offshore potentially exposed to various carcinogenic agents.

Methods Using the Norwegian Registry of Employers and Employees, 24 765 male offshore workers registered from 1981 to 2003 was compared with 283 002 male referents from the general working population matched by age and community of residence. The historical cohort was linked to the Cancer Registry of Norway and the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry.

Results Male offshore workers had excess risk of oesophageal cancer (RR 2.6, 95% CI 1.4 to 4.8) compared with the reference population. Only the adenocarcinoma type had a significantly increased risk (RR 2.7, 95% CI 1.0 to 7.0), mainly because of an increased risk among upstream operators (RR 4.3, 95% CI 1.3 to 14.5). Upstream operators did not have significant excess of respiratory system or colon cancer or mortality from any other lifestyle-related diseases investigated.

Conclusion We found a fourfold excess risk of oesophageal adenocarcinoma among male workers assumed to have had the most extensive contact with crude oil. Due to the small number of cases, and a lack of detailed data on occupational exposure and lifestyle factors associated with oesophageal adenocarcinoma, the results must be interpreted with caution. Nevertheless, given the low risk of lifestyle-related cancers and causes of death in this working group, the results add to the observations in other low-powered studies on oesophageal cancer, further suggesting that factors related to the petroleum stream or carcinogenic agents used in the production process might be associated with risk of oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

  • Oesophageal adenocarcinoma
  • occupational exposure
  • upstream petroleum industry
  • epidemiology
  • cancer

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  • Funding This study was funded by EXTRA funds from the Norwegian Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation (Karl Johans gt. 23 B, 0159 Oslo, Norway), the Norwegian Cancer Society (PO Box 4, Sentrum, 0101 Oslo), the Research Council of Norway (PO Box 2700, St. Hanshaugen, 0131 Oslo, Norway) and the Department of Health of UNIFOB AS (PO Box 7800, 5020 Bergen, Norway).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Regional Committee for Medical Research Ethics of Western Norway, the Norwegian Data Inspectorate and the Norwegian Directorate of Health.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.