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Occupational exposures and lung cancer risk among Minnesota taconite mining workers
  1. Elizabeth M Allen1,2,
  2. Bruce H Alexander1,
  3. Richard F MacLehose3,
  4. Heather H Nelson3,
  5. Andrew D Ryan1,
  6. Gurumurthy Ramachandran1,
  7. Jeffrey H Mandel1
  1. 1Division of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  2. 2Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  3. 3Division of Epidemiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Elizabeth M Allen, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, 717 Delaware St. SE, Suite 166, Minneapolis, MN 55414, USA; gasto020{at}


Objective To examine the association between employment duration, elongate mineral particle (EMP) exposure, silica exposure and the risk of lung cancer in the taconite mining industry.

Methods We conducted a nested case–control study of lung cancer within a cohort of Minnesota taconite iron mining workers employed by any of the mining companies in operation in 1983. Lung cancer cases were identified by vital records and cancer registry data through 2010. Two age-matched controls were selected from risk sets of cohort members alive and lung cancer free at the time of case diagnosis. Calendar time-specific exposure estimates were made for every job and were used to estimate workers’ cumulative exposures. ORs and 95% CIs were estimated using conditional logistic regression. We evaluated total lung cancer risk and risk of histological subtype by total work duration and by cumulative EMP, and silica exposure by quartile of the exposure distribution.

Results A total of 1706 cases and 3381 controls were included in the analysis. After adjusting for work in haematite mining, asbestos exposure and sex, the OR for total duration of employment was 0.99 (95% CI 0.96 to 1.01). The ORs for quartile 4 versus 1 of EMP and silica exposure were 0.82 (95% CI 0.57 to 1.19) and 0.97 (95% CI 0.70 to 1.35), respectively. The risk of each histological subtype of lung cancer did not change with increasing exposure.

Conclusions This study suggests that the estimated taconite mining exposures do not increase the risk of developing lung cancer.

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