Mortality analyses in the updated French cohort of uranium miners (1946–2007)

Abstract

Purpose

The objectives are to analyze mortality risks in the extended follow-up of the French uranium miners’ cohort and to examine their potential relation to occupational exposure to ionizing radiation (IR).

Methods

The total cohort includes 5,086 uranium miners employed in the CEA-COGEMA group and followed up from 1946 to 2007. Vital status, causes of death, and cumulative radon exposures were recorded. The post-55 subcohort includes 3,377 miners first employed after 1955, for whom long-lived radionuclides (LLR) and external gamma-ray exposure were also recorded. External mortality analyses were performed by computing standardized mortality ratios (SMR). Excess relative risks (ERRs) due to IR exposures were estimated from Poisson regression models.

Results

The miners included in the total cohort were followed up for 35.4 years and exposed to 36.6 working level months (WLM) on average. There was no evidence of a difference in overall mortality between miners and the general French male population. Miners had a statistically significant excess mortality rate from lung cancer (SMR = 1.34 [95 % CI 1.16–1.53]) and from kidney cancer (SMR = 1.60 [1.03–2.39]). Cumulative radon exposure was significantly associated with lung cancer risk (ERR/100 WLM = 0.71 [0.31–1.30]) and cerebrovascular risk (ERR/100 WLM = 0.41 [0.04–1.03]). In the post-55 subcohort, this excess mortality from lung cancer remained associated with exposure to radon, and also with exposure to LLR and external gamma rays.

Conclusions

The analyses in the extended follow-up strengthen the results previously observed among French uranium miners about their excess risk of mortality and its association with their occupational IR exposure.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the following from the Bessines sur Gartempe site, for their assistance with data collection from the mines’ archives and their helpfulness: P.C. Guiollard from AREVA-NC, S. Bernhard from Algade, and J.L. Filloux from the Association Interprofessionnelle pour la Santé au Travail (AIST 87). The authors also thank Jo Ann Cahn for her critical reading of the manuscript. This work was partly supported by AREVA-NC in the framework of a bilateral IRSN-AREVA-NC research agreement.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Rage, E., Caër-Lorho, S., Drubay, D. et al. Mortality analyses in the updated French cohort of uranium miners (1946–2007). Int Arch Occup Environ Health 88, 717–730 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-014-0998-6

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Keywords

  • Occupational cohort
  • Uranium miners
  • Mortality risk
  • Ionizing radiation
  • Radon exposure