Mortality among Navajo uranium miners

Am J Public Health. 1995 Apr;85(4):535-40. doi: 10.2105/ajph.85.4.535.


Objectives: To update mortality risks for Navajo uranium miners, a retrospective cohort mortality study was conducted of 757 Navajos from the cohort of Colorado Plateau uranium miners.

Methods: Vital status was followed from 1960 to 1990. Standardized mortality ratios were estimated, with combined New Mexico and Arizona non-White mortality rates used for comparison. Cox regression models were used to evaluate exposure-response relationships.

Results: Elevated standardized mortality ratios were found for lung cancer (3.3), tuberculosis (2.6), and pneumoconioses and other respiratory diseases (2.6). Lowered ratios were found for heart disease (0.6), circulatory disease (0.4), and liver cirrhosis (0.5). The estimated relative risk for a 5-year duration of exposure vs none was 3.7 for lung cancer, 2.1 for pneumoconioses and other respiratory diseases, and 2.0 for tuberculosis. The relative risk for lung cancer was 6.9 for the midrange of cumulative exposure to radon progeny compared with the least exposed.

Conclusions: Findings were consistent with those from previous studies. Twenty-three years after their last exposure to radon progeny, these light-smoking Navajo miners continue to face excess mortality risks from lung cancer and pneumoconioses and other respiratory diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Lung Diseases / mortality*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / mortality
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Pneumoconiosis / mortality
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Southwestern United States / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / mortality
  • Uranium / adverse effects*


  • Uranium