Background: Increased cancer risk has been reported among workers in the rubber manufacturing industry employed before the 1960s. It is unclear whether risk remains increased among workers hired subsequently. The present study focused on risk of cancer mortality for rubber workers first employed since 1975 in 64 factories.
Patients and methods: Anonymized data from cohorts of rubber workers employed for at least 1 year from Germany, Italy, Poland, Sweden, and the UK were pooled. Standardized mortality ratios (SMRs), based on country-specific death rates, were reported for bladder and lung cancer (primary outcomes of interest), for other selected cancer sites, and for cancer sites with a minimum of 10 deaths in men or women. Analyses stratified by type of industry, period, and duration of employment were carried out.
Results: A total of 38 457 individuals (29 768 men; 8689 women) contributed to 949 370 person-years. No increased risk of bladder cancer was observed [SMR = 0.80, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.46; 1.38]. The risk of lung cancer death was reduced (SMR = 0.81, 95% CI 0.70; 0.94). No statistically significant increased risk was observed for any other cause of death. A reduced risk was evident for total cancer mortality (SMR = 0.81, 95% CI 0.76; 0.87). Risks were lower for workers in the tyre industry compared with workers in the general rubber goods sector. Analysis by employment duration showed a negative trend with SMRs decreasing with increasing duration of employment. In an analysis of secondary end points, when stratified by type of industry and period of first employment, excess risks of myeloma and gastric cancer were observed each due, essentially, to results from one centre.
Conclusion: No consistent increased risk of cancer death was observed among rubber workers first employed since 1975, no overall analysis of the pooled cohort produced significantly increased risk. Continued surveillance of the present cohorts is required to confirm the absence of long-term risk.
Keywords: cancer; cohort study; mortality; occupational exposure; rubber.
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