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Br J Cancer. 2014 Jan 7;110(1):214-23. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2013.592. Epub 2013 Nov 14.

A reanalysis of cancer mortality in Canadian nuclear workers (1956-1994) based on revised exposure and cohort data.

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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA.
Directorate of Environmental and Radiation Protection and Assessment, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Ottawa, ON K1P 5S9, Canada.



A 15-country study of nuclear workers reported significantly increased radiation-related risks of all cancers excluding leukaemia, with Canadian data a major factor behind the pooled results. We analysed mortality (1956-1994) in the updated Canadian cohort and provided revised risk estimates.


Employment records were searched to verify and revise exposure data and to restore missing socioeconomic status. Excess relative risks per sievert (ERR/Sv) of recorded radiation dose and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated using Poisson regression.


A significant heterogeneity of the dose-response for solid cancer was identified (P=0.02), with 3088 early (1956-1964) Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) workers having a significant increase (ERR/Sv=7.87, 95% CI: 1.88, 19.5), and no evidence of radiation risk for 42,228 workers employed by three nuclear power plant companies and post-1964 AECL (ERR/Sv=-1.20, 95% CI: <-1.47, 2.39). Radiation risks of leukaemia were negative in early AECL workers and non-significantly increased in other workers. In analyses with separate terms for tritium and gamma doses, there was no evidence of increased risk from tritium exposure. All workers had mortality lower than the general population.


Significantly increased risks for early AECL workers are most likely due to incomplete transfer of AECL dose records to the National Dose Registry. Analyses of the remainder of the Canadian nuclear workers (93.2%) provided no evidence of increased risk, but the risk estimate was compatible with estimates that form the basis of radiation protection standards. Study findings suggest that the revised Canadian cohort, with the exclusion of early AECL workers, would likely have an important effect on the 15-country pooled risk estimate of radiation-related risks of all cancer excluding leukaemia by substantially reducing the size of the point estimate and its significance.

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