Cancer mortality in oil refinery workers

J Occup Med. 1979 Mar;21(3):167-74.


The cancer mortality experience from 1964 to 1973 of employees of the Imperial Oil Limited was examined in a cohort study. Employees in jobs which exposed them on a daily basis to crude petroleum or its products, compared with nonexposed employees, were found to have more than three times the risk of esophageal and stomach cancer and about twice the risk of lung cancer. In the exposed group, increasing risks of both cancers occurred with increasing duration of employment. In the absence of more complete information on the similarity of the exposed and nonexposed employees, these results cannot be ascribed with certainty to a carcinogenic effect of petroleum. However, there was no other clear explanation for the results, and further study is required. When refinery workers were compared with nonrefinery workers without consideration of exposure to petroleum in either group, the refinery workers were found to have twice the risk of cancer of the intestines (including rectum) and other digestive organs. No relationship with duration of employment was evident. Although the increased intestinal cancer mortality in the refinery workers was not consistent, bias was not an obvious explanation for the observed relationship. Therefore, the presence on a refinery site of a carcinogen other than petroleum has not been ruled out, and further study is urged.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada
  • Chemical Industry
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Petroleum / adverse effects


  • Petroleum