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Int J Radiat Biol. 2019 Jul 22:1-9. doi: 10.1080/09553002.2019.1642540. [Epub ahead of print]

Mesothelioma mortality within two radiation monitored occupational cohorts.

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a International Epidemiology Institute , Rockville , MD , USA.
b Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, Vanderbilt University Medical Center , Nashville , TN , USA.
c National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements , Bethesda , MD , USA.
d Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Division of Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center , Nashville , TN , USA.
e Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine , Nashville , TN , USA.


Purpose: The risk of mesothelioma, including cancers of the pleura and peritoneum, was examined within two large cohorts of workers monitored for exposure to ionizing radiation. Methods and materials: Mortality was assessed among 253,632 workers routinely monitored for external radiation, including 30,724 industrial radiographers (IR) at shipyards, 142,583 workers at nuclear power plants (NPP), and 83,441 IR who had not worked at an NPP or shipyard. Follow-up was from 1969 through 2011. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were computed; observed numbers of deaths from mesothelioma (including cancers of the pleura and peritoneum) and asbestosis were compared with numbers expected based on age-, sex-, and calendar year-specific national mortality rates. Job history and quantitative asbestos exposure data were unavailable, but work at a shipyard was taken as a surrogate for the likelihood of exposure. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) for mesothelioma in relation to estimated cumulative radiation exposure to the lung. Results: The mean duration of follow-up was 25.3 years (max 42 years). The mean cumulative lung dose was 28.6 mGy (7.3% > 250 mGy). Nearly 20% of the workers had died by 2011. A total of 421 mesothelioma deaths were found (75% occurring after 1999) with increased SMRs among workers monitored in shipyards (SMR 9.97; 95% CI 8.50-11.63) and for NPP workers (SMR 5.55; 95% CI 4.88-6.29), but not for IR who had not worked in shipyards (SMR 1.15; 95% CI 0.53-2.19). Likewise, deaths from asbestosis (n = 189) were also increased for shipyard and NPP workers (SMR = 18.1 and 9.2, respectively), but not among workers who never worked at a shipyard or NPP (SMR = 0.70; n = 1). Radiation dose to the lung was not associated with a statistically meaningful dose-response trend for mesothelioma in the combined cohorts (HR at 100 mGy = 1.10; 95% CI 0.96-1.27; p = .18), nor was mesothelioma risk associated with radiation exposure among IR who had not worked in a shipyard and assumed minimally exposed to asbestos. Conclusions: An elevated rate of death from mesothelioma was observed in two radiation-exposed occupational groups with potential for asbestos exposure. The increased risk of death from asbestosis, combined with little evidence of a rising trend in mesothelioma mortality with increasing radiation exposure, suggests that the mesothelioma (and asbestosis) excess in these workers was due to asbestos exposure in shipyards and power plants and not to occupational low-dose radiation.


Mesothelioma; asbestos; cohort; epidemiology

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