Objective: To investigate mortality among nuclear workers with potential internal exposure to uranium.
Methods: The cohort included 2,709 workers employed at the AREVA NC Pierrelatte plant for at least 6 months (72,787 person-years). This plant processed uranium enrichment during the period 1960-1996 and chemical conversion since 1980. Mortality was compared to the national and regional mortality rates available for the period 1968-2005. For causes of death of interest with respect to occupational exposure, mortality trends according to occupational characteristics were assessed.
Results: As expected, an important healthy worker effect (all causes SMR = 0.55 (95% CI: 0.50-0.61), n = 411; all cancers SMR = 0.70 (95% CI: 0.60-0.81), n = 193) was observed. Among cancer sites a priori related to uranium exposure, only mortality for lymphatic cancer was increased among potentially exposed workers (SMR = 1.49 (95% CI: 0.68-2.82); n = 9). An important increase in mortality from pleural cancer was observed (SMR = 2.85 (95% CI: 0.93-6.66), n = 5); none of the deceased workers were exposed to radiation whereas all handled asbestos.
Conclusion: In spite of limited statistical power, results show consistency with previous studies of nuclear workers potentially exposed to uranium. Further investigation based on more precise uranium exposure data should allow the estimation of uranium hazard effects among this cohort.