Mortality patterns among embalmers

Int J Cancer. 1983 Apr 15;31(4):407-11. doi: 10.1002/ijc.2910310403.


In view of recent findings of nasal cancer in rats exposed to formaldehyde vapors, we investigated the proportionate mortality experience of embalmers licensed to practice in New York State. Mortality was significantly elevated for cancers of the skin and colon and for arteriosclerotic heart disease, whereas significant deficits were seen in mortality from respiratory diseases and accidents. Respiratory cancer mortality was not excessive and no deaths were attributed to nasal cancer. Mortality was significantly elevated for cancers of the skin, kidney, and brain among those licensed only as embalmers, whereas mortality patterns were unremarkable among those licensed also as funeral directors (and presumably less exposed to formaldehyde) These preliminary results indicate the need for occupational cohort studies to clarify the carcinogenic potential of formaldehyde.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Colonic Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Colonic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Coronary Disease / mortality
  • Embalming*
  • Formaldehyde / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / chemically induced
  • Lung Diseases / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • New York
  • Occupational Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality
  • Skin Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality


  • Formaldehyde