Lung Cancer Risks from Plutonium: An Updated Analysis of Data from the Mayak Worker Cohort

a Radiation Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland.
Radiation Research (Impact Factor: 2.91). 02/2013; 179(3). DOI: 10.1667/RR3054.1
Source: PubMed


Workers at the Mayak nuclear facility in the Russian Federation offer a unique opportunity to evaluate health risks from exposure to inhaled plutonium. Risks of mortality from lung cancer, the most serious carcinogenic effect of plutonium, were evaluated in 14,621 Mayak workers who were hired in the period from 1948-1982, followed for at least 5 years, and either monitored for plutonium or never worked with plutonium. Over the follow-up period from 1953-2008, there were 486 deaths from lung cancer, 446 of them in men. In analyses that were adjusted for external radiation dose and smoking, the plutonium excess relative risk (ERR) per Gy declined with attained age and was higher for females than for males. The ERR per Gy for males at age 60 was 7.4 (95% CI: 5.0-11) while that for females was 24 (95% CI: 11-56). When analyses were restricted to plutonium doses <0.2 Gy, the ERR per Gy for males at age 60 were similar: 7.0 (95% CI: 2.5-13). Of the 486 lung cancer deaths, 105 (22%) were attributed to plutonium exposure and 29 (6%) to external exposure. Analyses of the 12,708 workers with information on smoking indicated that the relationship of plutonium exposure and smoking was likely sub-multiplicative (P = 0.011) and strongly indicated that it was super-additive (P < 0.001). Although extensive efforts have been made to improve plutonium dose estimates in this cohort, they are nevertheless subject to large uncertainties. Large bioassay measurement errors alone are likely to have resulted in serious underestimation of risks, whereas other sources of uncertainty may have biased results in ways that are difficult to predict. © 2013 by Radiation Research Society.

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    • "Studies of the radiation workers at the Russian Mayak Production Association (Mayak PA) have provided information on risks from external exposures and internal exposures from plutonium (Shilnikova et al, 2003; Sokolnikov et al, 2008; Azizova et al, 2012; Gilbert et al, 2013). These studies have demonstrated significant association between cancer and non-cancer diseases and exposure to internal plutonium and external gamma ray. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Cancer incidence in the Mayak Production Association (PA) cohort was analysed to investigate for the first time whether external gamma-ray and internal plutonium exposure are associated with raised incidence of solid cancers other than lung, liver and bone (other solid cancers). Methods: The cohort includes 22 366 workers of both sexes who were first employed between 1948 and 1982. A total of 1447 cases of other solid cancers were registered in the follow-up period until 2004. The Poisson regression was used to estimate the excess relative risk (ERR) per unit of cumulative exposure to plutonium and external gamma-ray. Results: A weak association was found between cumulative exposure to external gamma-ray and the incidence of other solid cancers (ERR/Gy=0.07; 95% confidence intervals (CIs): 0.01–0.15), but this association lost its significance after adjusting for internal plutonium exposure. There was no indication of any association with plutonium exposure for other solid cancers. Among 16 individual cancer sites, there was a statistically significant association with external exposure for lip cancer (ERR/Gy=1.74; 95% CI: 0.37; 6.71) and with plutonium exposure for pancreatic cancer (ERR/Gy=1.58; 95% CI; 0.17; 4.77). Conclusion: This study of Mayak workers does not provide evidence of an increased risk of other solid cancers. The observed increase in the risk of cancer of the lip and pancreas should be treated with caution because of the limited amount of relevant data and because the observations may be simply due to chance.
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