Original Article

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health

, Volume 87, Issue 2, pp 175-183

First online:

A retrospective cohort study of shift work and risk of cancer-specific mortality in German male chemical workers

  • Mei YongAffiliated withOccupational Medicine and Health Protection Department, BASF Societas Europaea Email author 
  • , Michael NasterlackAffiliated withOccupational Medicine and Health Protection Department, BASF Societas Europaea
  • , Peter MessererAffiliated withOccupational Medicine and Health Protection Department, BASF Societas Europaea
  • , Christoph OberlinnerAffiliated withOccupational Medicine and Health Protection Department, BASF Societas Europaea
  • , Stefan LangAffiliated withOccupational Medicine and Health Protection Department, BASF Societas Europaea

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Abstract

Objectives

Human evidence of carcinogenicity concerning shift work is inconsistent. In a previous study, we observed no elevated risk of total mortality in shift workers followed up until the end of 2006. The present study aimed to investigate cancer-specific mortality, relative to shift work.

Methods

The cohort consisted of male production workers (14,038 shift work and 17,105 day work), employed at BASF Ludwigshafen for at least 1 year between 1995 and 2005. Vital status was followed from 2000 to 2009. Cause-specific mortality was obtained from death certificates. Exposure to shift work was measured both as a dichotomous and continuous variable. While lifetime job history was not available, job duration in the company was derived from personal data, which was then categorized at the quartiles. Cox proportional hazard model was used to adjust for potential confounders, in which job duration was treated as a time-dependent covariate.

Results

Between 2000 and 2009, there were 513 and 549 deaths among rotating shift and day work employees, respectively. Risks of total and cancer-specific mortalities were marginally lower among shift workers when taking age at entry and job level into consideration and were statistically significantly lower when cigarette smoking, alcohol intake, job duration, and chronic disease prevalence at entry to follow-up were included as explanatory factors. With respect to mortality risks in relation to exposure duration, no increased risks were found in any of the exposure groups after full adjustment and there was no apparent trend suggesting an exposure–response relation with duration of shift work.

Conclusions

The present analysis extends and confirms our previous finding of no excess risk of mortality associated with work in the shift system employed at BASF Ludwigshafen. More specifically, there is also no indication of an increased risk of mortality due to cancer.

Keywords

Shift work Mortality Cancer risk Health surveillance Industry-based cohort study Circadian disruption