Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Original article
Does uranium induce circulatory diseases? First results from a French cohort of uranium workers
  1. Irina Guseva Canu1,
  2. Jerome-Philippe Garsi1,
  3. Sylvaine Caër-Lorho1,
  4. Sophie Jacob1,
  5. Philippe Collomb2,
  6. Alain Acker3,
  7. Dominique Laurier1
  1. 1Institute of Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, Division of Radiological Protection and Human Health, Department of Radiobiology and Epidemiology
  2. 2AREVA NC, Department of Occupational Medicine, Pierrelatte, France
  3. 3AREVA group, Medical Coordination Section, Paris, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Irina Guseva Canu, Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, IRSN/DRPH/SRBE/LEPID, BP 17, Fontenay-aux-Roses 92262, France; irina.canu{at}


Objectives Increased risk of circulatory system diseases (CSDs) was observed in nuclear workers handling uranium and plutonium in Russia and the UK. This work examines the CSD mortality after chronic intake of uranium among 2897 workers (79 892 person-years) at a uranium processing plant (1960–2006) in France.

Methods Cumulative exposure to different uranium compounds, classified by their isotopic composition and solubility type, was quantified on the basis of a plant-specific job-exposure matrix and individual job histories. HRs and associated 95% CI for CSD (n=111) and specific CSD categories were estimated using Cox regression models, stratified on sex and birth cohort and adjusted for potential confounders. The effect of smoking was analysed among 260 smokers (42 CSD deaths).

Results Compared to unexposed workers, CSD mortality was increased among workers exposed to slowly soluble reprocessed uranium (RPU) (HR=2.13, 95% CI=0.96 to 4.70) and natural uranium (HR=1.73, 95% CI=1.11 to 2.69). The risk increased with cumulative exposure and exposure duration. In the subgroup of smokers, the risk estimates were higher but with larger CIs: HR=1.91 (95% CI=0.92 to 3.98) for natural uranium and HR=4.78 (95% CI=1.38 to 16.50) for RPU.

Conclusions The authors observed that exposure to slowly soluble uranium, namely RPU, may increase the risk of CSD mortality. However, these results are preliminary since the study is lacking statistical power and many other biological and lifestyle-related factors may cause CSD. More detailed investigations are necessary to confirm these findings and analyse in depth the effects of internal radiation exposure on the circulatory system.

  • Uranium
  • internal radiation
  • inhalation
  • mortality
  • circulatory system diseases

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • IGC and J-PG contributed equally to this paper.

  • Funding This work was funded by the IRSN and AREVA (PIC-Epidemiology 2009/2012 grant), with partial financial support from the EC (EURATOM FIP6-516483 grant).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Only anonymous individual data were used in the study, with approval of the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) and Pierrelatte Plant Committee of Hygiene, Safety and Working Conditions (CHSCT).

  • Ethics approval The ethics approval was provided by French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) and Pierrelatte Plant Committee of Hygiene, Safety and Working Conditions (CHSCT).

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