Cancer and non-cancer excess mortality resulting from mixed exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated dibenzofurans from contaminated rice oil: “Yusho

  • Saori Kashima
  • Takashi Yorifuji
  • Toshihide Tsuda
  • Akira Eboshida
Original Article



In 1968, rice oil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated dibenzofurans caused a severe outbreak of food poisoning in Japan and was termed locally as “Yusho” (oil disease). In our previous study, we found that area-based standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) of some diseases were elevated shortly after the incident. This previous study, however, was unable to determine whether these elevated SMRs were a result of other area-specific factors. To overcome this limitation, we obtained mortality data from the 5 years before the incident and conducted an area-based study using vital statistics records dating from 1963 to 2002.


The population of Nagasaki Prefecture was set as the reference population for calculating SMRs. We also included data on cause-specific mortality attributable to cancer and expanded the population to encompass two severely exposed areas where contaminated rice oil was distributed (namely Tamanoura and Naru). We also calculated SMRs in the remainder of the Shimo-Goto region, excluding the exposed area, which was used as a comparison area.


Even after considering the time trends in mortality before the incident, mortality due to diabetes mellitus and heart disease, as well as all-cause mortality, was found to be elevated shortly afterward. Additionally, mortalities due to uterine cancer in Tamanoura and leukemia were also elevated at 30–34 and 10–59 years after the event in both exposed areas, respectively. SMRs for leukemia in Tamanoura were as high as 3.0 (95 % confidence interval 1.4–6.2) and 2.4 (1.2–4.8) 10–19 years later. In this period, SMRs for leukemia in the comparison area were not elevated.


Further epidemiological studies are needed regarding this rice-oil, “Yusho” outbreak, especially with regard to cancer and non-cancer mortality.


Polychlorinated biphenyls Chlorinated dibenzofurans Mortality Leukemia Heart disease Food contamination 



We thank Ms. Toshiko Shukuwa and Dr. Mamoru Shimoda for their valuable input. We also thank Ms. Kaori Kyo who helped us collect the data. This work was supported by the Okayama Medical Foundation.

Conflict of interest

No conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

The manuscript does not contain clinical studies or patient data.

Supplementary material

420_2014_966_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Saori Kashima
    • 1
  • Takashi Yorifuji
    • 2
  • Toshihide Tsuda
    • 2
  • Akira Eboshida
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Public Health and Health Policy, Institute of Biomedical and Health SciencesHiroshima UniversityHiroshimaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Human Ecology, Graduate School of Environmental and Life ScienceOkayama UniversityOkayamaJapan

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