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Original research
Case–control study of brain and other central nervous system cancer among workers at semiconductor and storage device manufacturing facilities
  1. Ema G Rodrigues1,
  2. Robert F Herrick1,
  3. James Stewart1,
  4. Helena Palacios1,
  5. Francine Laden1,
  6. William Clark1,
  7. Elizabeth Delzell2
  1. 1 Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2 Department of Epidemiology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
  1. Correspondence to Francine Laden, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA; francine.laden{at}


Objective This study evaluated the relationship between brain and other central nervous system cancer (‘CNS cancer’) and exposures at two semiconductor and electronic module manufacturing facilities and at a storage device manufacturing facility.

Methods The case–control study, nested in a cohort of 126 836 employees, compared 120 CNS cancer cases and 1028 matched controls with respect to employment in 10 process groups and estimated cumulative exposure to 31 known or possible carcinogens.

Results CNS cancer was associated with module manufacturing operations at two facilities. Module manufacturing is a process that begins with production of ceramic substrates followed by attachment of completed semiconductor chips and metal-containing circuitry resulting in a high performing electronic device. Positive associations with the highest tertile of estimated cumulative exposure were found for several chemicals, including 2-butoxyethanol, cyclohexanone, ortho-dichlorobenzene, cadmium, molybdenum, trichloroethylene and vinyl chloride.

Conclusions Results suggested positive associations between CNS cancer and specific operations and chemicals experienced in the semiconductor and electronic module manufacturing industry. However, lack of external support for these findings precludes a causal interpretation, and the observed associations may have been due to chance.

  • central nervous system neoplasms
  • occupational exposure
  • manufacturing and industrial facilities
  • case-control studies
  • computer storage devices

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  • Contributors EGR, RFH, JS, HP, FL, WC and ED contributed to the design and implementation of the research, to the analysis of the results and to the writing of the manuscript.

  • Funding International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) provided funds for this research. The sponsor did not have a role in the design of the study. The sponsor provided access to study facilities; to electronic and hard-copy records stored at the facilities or remotely, as requested by the investigators after they reviewed the sponsor’s historical inventories of records; and to employees knowledgeable about facility operations over time. The sponsor did not carry out data collection, further development of the data for the study or data analysis; these activities were the sole responsibility of the investigators. The sponsor reviewed and provided comments on the paper. However, the final version of the paper was the sole responsibility of the investigators.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the institutional review boards at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Harvard University and the NY State Department of Health.

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

  • Data availability statement No data are available. Work-related data are proprietary to IBM, and outcome data were obtained under agreements that protect subject confidentiality. Epidemiology data contain identifiers, and authors do not have the authority to share it.