Cancer incidence among Australian nuclear industry workers

J Occup Health. 2006 Sep;48(5):358-65. doi: 10.1539/joh.48.358.


To assess whether workers at Lucas Heights Science and Technology Centre (LHSTC) had different levels of cancer incidence from the New South Wales (NSW) population in Australia. A retrospective cohort study was undertaken at LHSTC. Data on 7,076 workers employed between 1957-98 were abstracted from personnel, dosimetry, and medical files. An inception cohort was defined which included 4,523 workers in employment between 1972-96 to examine cancer incidence. Cancer registrations in the inception cohort were identified to 1996 through electronic linkage of records with the NSW and the Australian national registers of cancer incidence. All-cancer incidence in workers at LHSTC was 15% below the NSW rates [SIR=0.85; 95% CI=(0.75, 0.95)]. Of 37 specific cancers and groups of cancers examined, statistically significant excesses relative to NSW rates were observed only for pleural cancer incidence [SIR=17.71; 95%=(7.96, 39.43)], and for incidence of cancer of the small intestine [SIR=4.34; 95% CI=(1.40, 13.46)]. This study gives little evidence of an increased risk of cancers associated with radiation exposure in a cohort of nuclear workers in Australia. The observed increase in the risk of cancer of the pleura was probably due to unmeasured exposures, given the lack of an established association with radiation exposure, and the strong link to asbestos exposure. Findings for cancers of the small intestine were based on small numbers and were likely to be due to chance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Power Plants*
  • Radiation, Ionizing*