Journal Article

Mortality from Solid Cancers among Workers in Formaldehyde Industries

Michael Hauptmann, Jay H. Lubin, Patricia A. Stewart, Richard B. Hayes and Aaron Blair

in American Journal of Epidemiology

Published on behalf of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Volume 159, issue 12, pages 1117-1130
Published in print June 2004 | ISSN: 0002-9262
Published online June 2004 | e-ISSN: 1476-6256 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwh174
Mortality from Solid Cancers among Workers in Formaldehyde Industries

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In industrial workers, formaldehyde exposure has been associated with cancer of the nasal cavities, nasopharynx, prostate, lung, and pancreas; however, these associations are inconsistent and remain controversial. Animals exposed to formaldehyde show excesses of nasal cancer. In an extended follow-up of a large cohort of formaldehyde-exposed workers, the authors evaluated mortality from solid cancers (1,921 deaths) among 25,619 workers (865,708 person-years) employed in 10 US formaldehyde-producing or -using facilities through 1994. Exposure assessment included quantitative estimates of formaldehyde exposure. Standardized mortality ratios and relative risks were calculated. Compared with that for the US population, mortality from solid cancers was significantly lower than expected among subjects exposed and nonexposed to formaldehyde (standardized mortality ratios = 0.91 and 0.78, respectively). Relative risks for nasopharyngeal cancer (nine deaths) increased with average exposure intensity, cumulative exposure, highest peak exposure, and duration of exposure to formaldehyde (p-trend = 0.066, 0.025, <0.001, and 0.147, respectively). Formaldehyde exposure did not appear to be associated with lung (744 deaths), pancreas (93 deaths), or brain (62 deaths) cancer. Although relative risks for prostate cancer (145 deaths) were elevated for some measures of formaldehyde exposure, the trend was inconsistent. In this cohort of formaldehyde-industry workers, some evidence was found of an exposure-response relation with mortality from nasopharyngeal cancer (based on small numbers) but not for cancers of the pancreas, brain, lung, or prostate.

Keywords: carcinogens; cohort studies; formaldehyde; lung; mortality; nasopharynx; neoplasms; occupational health; Abbreviations: CI, confidence interval; SMR, standardized mortality ratio.

Journal Article.  10062 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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