Cancer Causes & Control

, 17:749 | Cite as

Cancer and Occupational Exposure to Pentachlorophenol and Tetrachlorophenol (Canada)

  • Paul A. DemersEmail author
  • Hugh W. Davies
  • Melissa C. Friesen
  • Clyde Hertzman
  • Aleck Ostry
  • Ruth Hershler
  • Kay Teschke
Original Paper



The objective of this study is to assess the carcinogenicity of pentachlorophenol and tetrachlorophenol using data from the BC sawmill workers cohort study.


The cohort consisted of 27,464 men employed by 14 sawmills for 1 year or more between 1950 and 1995. Fatal (1950–1995) and incident (1969–1995) cancers were identified using national registries. Plant records and systematic interviews with senior employees were used to estimate dermal exposure. Comparisons were made with the general BC population and dose-response relationships were assessed using Poisson regression.


There were 1,495 fatal cancer and 2,571 incident cancers. There were no large or statistically significant excesses of any of the specific cancers were observed compared to the general population. Internal analyses showed strong dose-response relationships for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and kidney cancer. These relationships were strongest when exposure was restricted to pentachlorophenol. The strength of the dose-response increased when exposure was lagged by 20 years.


Dermal exposure to pentachlorophenol was associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and kidney cancer, but not with other cancers of a priori interest.


Chlorophenols Occupational exposure Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma Cancer 



The authors would like to acknowledge the management, employees, owners, and the unions of the participating sawmills for their cooperation and assistance during the study. In addition we would like to acknowledge the work on the original study by Shona Kelley and many others and the technical assistance on the current study provided by Robert Hirtle, Lisa Chen, and others. This study was funded by the Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia. Additional support was provided through grants for other portions of the BC Sawmill Workers Cohort Study from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the British Columbia Lung Association, and the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul A. Demers
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hugh W. Davies
    • 1
  • Melissa C. Friesen
    • 1
  • Clyde Hertzman
    • 2
  • Aleck Ostry
    • 2
  • Ruth Hershler
    • 2
  • Kay Teschke
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Occupational and Environmental HygieneUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Health Care and EpidemiologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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