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Cancer mortality and morbidity among plutonium workers at the Sellafield plant of British Nuclear Fuels

Omar, RZ; Barber, JA; Smith, PG; (1999) Cancer mortality and morbidity among plutonium workers at the Sellafield plant of British Nuclear Fuels. British Journal of Cancer , 79 (7-8) 1288 - 1301. 10.1038/sj.bjc.6690207.

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Abstract

The mortality of all 14,319 workers employed at the Sellafield plant of British Nuclear Fuels between 1947 and 1975 was studied up to the end of 1992, and cancer incidence was examined from 1971 to 1986, in relation to their exposures to plutonium and to external radiation. The cancer mortality rate was 5% lower than that of England and Wales and 3% less than that of Cumbria. The significant excesses of deaths from cancer of the pleura and thyroid found in an earlier study persist with further follow-up (14 observed, 4.0 expected for pleura; 6 observed, 2.2 expected for thyroid). All of the deaths from pleural cancer were among radiation workers. For neither site was there a significant association between the risk of the cancer and accumulated radiation dose. There were significant deficits of deaths from cancers of mouth and pharynx, liver and gall bladder, and larynx and leukaemia when compared with the national rates. Among all radiation workers, there was a significant positive association between accumulated external radiation dose and mortality from cancers of ill-defined and secondary sites (10-year lag, P = 0.04), leukaemia (no lag, P = 0.03; 2-year lag, P = 0.05), multiple myeloma (20-year lag, P = 0.02), all lymphatic and haematopoietic cancers (20-year lag, P = 0.03) and all causes of death combined (20-year lag, P = 0.008). Among plutonium workers, there were significant excesses of deaths from cancer of the breast (6 observed, 2.6 expected) and ill-defined and secondary cancers (29 observed, 20.1 expected). No significant positive trends were observed between the risk of deaths from cancers of any specific site, or all cancers combined, and cumulative plutonium and external radiation doses. For no cancer site was there a significant excess of cancer registrations compared with rates for England and Wales. Analysis of trends in cancer incidence showed significant increases in risk with cumulative plutonium plus external radiation doses for all lymphatic and haematopoietic neoplasms for 0-, 10- and 20-year lag periods. Taken as a whole, our findings do not suggest that workers at Sellafield who have been exposed to plutonium are at an overall significantly increased risk of cancer compared with other radiation workers.

Type:Article
Title:Cancer mortality and morbidity among plutonium workers at the Sellafield plant of British Nuclear Fuels
DOI:10.1038/sj.bjc.6690207
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Statistical Science

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