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Cancer Causes Control. 1996 May;7(3):312-21.

Cancer mortality in German male workers exposed to phenoxy herbicides and dioxins.

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German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.


In an occupational cohort study, the relation between exposure to phenoxy herbicides, and contaminants (dioxins and furans) and cancer mortality was investigated. A total of 2,479 workers from four plants in Germany were included, with a mortality follow-up until the end of 1989 (for one cohort, until the end of 1992). A total of 484 deaths were recorded yielding a standardized mortality ratio (SMR) of 101 (95 percent confidence interval [CI] = 92-111) for total mortality, and an SMR of 119 (CI = 100-141) for all malignant diseases. A variety of herbicides was produced, including those which are known to have been contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). High dioxin and furan exposure (in particular, exposure to TCDD, but also to higher chlorinated dioxins) had occurred in two of the four plants as shown by blood-fat measurements in a sample of workers. Mortality from all neoplasms increased with latency and was highest in the largest plant where the highest TCDD blood levels were recorded. An increased mortality in the total cohort from respiratory cancer (SMR = 154, CI = 115-202), cancer of the buccal cavity and pharynx (SMR = 295, CI = 135-560), and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (SMR = 326, CI = 119-710) was observed. Our findings are consistent with results from other cohorts which showed an increased overall cancer mortality and mortality of respiratory cancer after long-term exposure to these phenoxy herbicides and dioxins.

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