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Am J Ind Med. 1999 Jul;36(1):48-53.

Breast cancer and occupational exposures in women in Finland.

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Department of Medical Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. Elisabete.Weiderpass@MEP.KI.SE



The etiology of breast cancer is not fully understood. Environmental and occupational exposures may contribute to breast cancer risk.


We linked 324 job titles from the 1970 census of 892,591 Finnish women with incidence of breast cancer (23,638 cases) during 1971-1995. We converted job titles to 31 chemical and two ergonomic agents through a measurement-based, period-specific, national job-exposure matrix. Poisson regression models were fit to the data, with adjustment for birth cohort, follow-up period, socioeconomic status, mean number of children, mean age at first delivery, and turnover rate.


For premenopausal breast cancer, medium/high level of occupational exposure to ionizing radiation was associated with a standardized incidence ratio (SIR) of 1.3 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.7-2.5; trend P = 0.03). For postmenopausal breast cancer, we found on SIR of 1.2 (1.1-1.3) for low level and 1.4 (1.1-1.8) for medium/high level of ionizing radiation (trend P = 0.001); and an SIR 1.3 (1.1-1.7) for medium/high levels of both asbestos and man-made vitreous fibers. Aromatic hydrocarbon solvents showed a significant trend for a modest excess of postmenopausal breast cancer.


Our study indicates that occupational exposure to ionizing radiation may be associated with an increased risk of female breast cancer. High-quality studies on environmental and occupational etiology of breast cancer are needed for further elucidation of risk factors.

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