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Am J Epidemiol. 1992 Aug 15;136(4):389-98.

Mortality among workers exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls.

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Division of Surveillance, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, OH.


On the basis of evidence from animal studies, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are considered potentially carcinogenic to humans. However, the results of studies in human populations exposed to PCBs have been inconsistent. The authors conducted a retrospective cohort analysis (1957-1986) comparing the mortality of 3,588 electrical capacitor manufacturing workers with known exposure to PCBs with age-, sex-, and calendar time-specific mortality rates for all whites in the United States. Proportional hazards modeling was also performed to examine the association between cumulative PCB exposure and site-specific cancer mortality. All-cause mortality (192 deaths observed, 283.3 expected) and total cancer mortality (54 deaths observed, 63.7 expected) were lower than expected. More deaths were observed than expected for malignant melanoma (8 observed, less than 2.0 expected) and cancer of the brain and nervous system (5 observed, 2.8 expected). The average estimated cumulative dose for the cases of brain cancer (22.9 units) was greater than for other workers (12.9 units), but the 95% confidence intervals around this difference were broad. The risk of malignant melanoma was not related to cumulative PCB exposure. These results provide some evidence of an association between employment at this plant and malignant melanoma and cancer of the brain. The possibility that the results are due to chance, bias, or confounding cannot be excluded.

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