Background: This study evaluates cancer mortality among women employed in two large printing plants in Moscow.
Methods: A total of 3,473 women who were actively employed as of December 31, 1978, with a minimum of 2 years employment were followed from 1 January 1979 to 31 December 1993. There were 47,791 person-years observed, with only 51 women lost to follow-up (1.5%). Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) were calculated using the population of Moscow to generate expected numbers. Analyses by job (compositors, press operators, and bookbinders), age hired, latency, and duration of employment were conducted.
Results: Among women employed in the two printing plants, there was a significant excess of esophageal cancer, based on seven deaths (expected = 2.7, SMR = 2.7, 95% CI = 1.1-5.4). Four of the seven esophageal cancer deaths occurred among bookbinders (expected = 1.0, SMR = 4.1, 95% CI = 1.1-10.4), all among workers hired before 1957 (expected = 0.6, SMR = 7.1, 95% CI = 1.9-18.3), the last year benzene was used in bookbinding. Ovarian cancer was also significantly elevated among bookbinders (12 observed, 4.2 expected, SMR = 2.9, 95% CI = 1.5-5.0), which, along with one death from mesothelioma of the abdomen, might be related to the use of asbestos-contaminated talc fillers in paper. Press operators had significantly elevated mortality from stomach cancer (observed = 9, expected = 4.1, SMR = 2.2, 95% CI = 1.0-4.2) and, based on two deaths each, melanoma and bladder cancer.
Conclusions: Women in this printing industry cohort experienced excess mortality of cancer of the esophagus and stomach, with suggested increases of melanoma and bladder cancer. Further follow-up of this cohort, which would allow more in-depth analysis of rare cancer sites, latency, and duration of employment, is warranted. Gender comparisons within the cohort should also be conducted to clarify the role of occupational and lifestyle factors in the etiology of cancer among workers in the printing industry.