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Occup Environ Med. 2004 Jun;61(6):541-7.

Mortality and cancer incidence in New Zealand meat workers.

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  • 1Centre for Public Health Research, Research School of Public Health, Massey University, Wellington Campus, New Zealand.



To ascertain whether there is an increased risk of cancers of the lung and lymphohaematopoietic tissue in workers employed in the New Zealand meat processing industry, and to identify exposures associated with any increased risks.


A cohort of 6647 individuals assembled from personnel records from three plants was followed from 1988 until 2000. The observed number of deaths and cancer registrations was compared with expected numbers using five year age and gender specific rates for the New Zealand population. Subgroup analyses evaluated the effect of duration of exposure to selected agents, based on job titles and departments.


Vital status was determined for 84% of the cohort, and 92% of the total possible person-years. Mortality from all causes and all cancers was increased, and there was a significant excess of lung cancer. There were significant trends of increasing risk of lung and lymphohaematopoietic cancer with increasing duration of exposure to biological material.


Excess risks were observed for mortality from all causes, all cancers, and lung cancer. Although the increased risk of lung cancer may be partly due to confounding by smoking, it is unlikely to be entirely due to this cause. Furthermore, the dose-response relation observed for lung cancer suggests the effect is related to exposure to biological material contained in animal urine, faeces, and blood. Although numbers were small, the risk of lymphohaematopoietic cancer was also associated with increasing duration and level of exposure to biological material.

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