Radon exposure and mortality among white and American Indian uranium miners: an update of the Colorado Plateau cohort

Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Mar 15;169(6):718-30. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwn406. Epub 2009 Feb 10.


Studies of uranium miners on the US Colorado Plateau have identified associations between exposure to radon progeny and risk of lung cancer. This study added 15 years of mortality follow-up for the 4,137 miners (primarily white or American Indian) in the Colorado Plateau cohort. The cohort experienced 209 new lung cancer deaths. For white miners, the standardized mortality ratio for lung cancer compared with the regional population was 3.99 (95% confidence interval: 3.43, 4.62) for the period 1991-2005. For American Indian miners, the lung cancer standardized mortality ratio was 3.27 (95% confidence interval: 2.19, 4.73). These standardized mortality ratios have not declined substantially since the 1980s. Internally standardized rate ratios by radon exposure category over the entire follow-up period are similar to those based on earlier follow-up, although estimates within smoking categories demonstrated improved precision. The apparent interaction between radon and smoking in causing lung cancer remains submultiplicative but greater than additive. Mortality rates from silicosis remain highly elevated in the cohort. Elevated mortality rates were observed from interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Significant trends were observed with increased radon exposure in silicosis and pulmonary fibrosis mortality and in the incidence of diabetes-related end-stage renal disease among white miners.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cause of Death
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Mining*
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Radon / toxicity*
  • Risk Factors
  • Uranium*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*


  • Uranium
  • Radon