Advertisement

Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 591–599 | Cite as

Cancer occurrence among European mercury miners

  • Paolo Boffetta
  • Montserrat Garcia-gómez
  • Vera Pompe-Kirn
  • David Zaridze
  • Tom Bellander
  • Mariana Bulbulyan
  • Jose Diego Caballero
  • Franco Ceccarelli
  • Didier Colin
  • Tatjana Dizdarevic
  • Santiago Español
  • Alfred Kobal
  • Nina Petrova
  • Gerd Sällsten
  • Enzo Merler
Article

Abstract

Objectives: To study the carcinogenicity of inorganic mercury in humans.

Methods: We studied the mortality from cancer among 6784 male and 265 female workers of four mercury mines and mills in Spain, Slovenia, Italy and the Ukraine. Workers were employed between the beginning of the century and 1990; the follow-up period lasted from the 1950s to the 1990s. We compared the mortality of the workers with national reference rates.

Results: Among men, there was no overall excess cancer mortality; an increase was observed in mortality from lung cancer (standardized mortality ratio [SMR] 1.19, 95 percent confidence interval [CI] 1.03-1.38) and liver cancer (SMR 1.64, CI 1.18-2.22). The increase in lung cancer risk was restricted to workers from Slovenia and the Ukraine: no relationship was found with duration of employment or estimated mercury exposure. The increase in liver cancer risk was present both among miners and millers and was stronger in workers from Italy and Slovenia: there was a trend with estimated cumulative exposure but not with duration of employment, and the excess was not present in a parallel analysis of cancer incidence among workers from Slovenia. No increase was observed for other types of cancer, including brain and kidney tumours. Among female workers (Ukraine only), three deaths occurred from ovarian cancer, likely representing an excess.

Conclusions: Exposure to inorganic mercury in mines and mills does not seem strongly associated with cancer risk, with the possible exception of liver cancer; the increase in lung cancer may be explained by co-exposure to crystalline silica and radon.

Epidemiology inorganic mercury mining occupational health 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 1.
    IPCS. Mercury, inorganic (Environmental Health Criteria No. 118). Geneva: WHO, 1991.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Boffetta P, Merler E, Vainio H. Carcinogenicity of mercury and mercury compounds. Scand J Work Environ Health 1993; 19: 1–7.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    IARC. Mercury and mercury compounds. In: IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Vol. 58, Beryllium, Cadmium, Mercury and Exposures in the Glass Manufacturing Industry. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1994: 239–345.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Ahlbom A. Dentists, dental nurses, and brain tumours. Br Med J 1986; 292: 662.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cragle DL, Hollis DR, Qualters JR, Tankersley WG, Fry SA. A mortality study of men exposed to elemental mercury. J Occup Med 1984; 26: 817–21.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Barregard L, Sallsten G, Jarvholm B. Mortality and cancer incidence in chloralkali workers exposed to inorganic mercury. Br J Ind Med 1990; 47: 99–104.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ellingsen DG, Andersen A, Nordhagen HP, Efskind J, Kjuus H. Incidence of cancer and mortality among workers exposed to mercury vapour in the Norwegian chloralkali industry. Br J Ind Med 1993; 50: 875–80.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Merler E, Boffetta P, Masala G, Monechi V, Bani F. A cohort study of workers compensated for mercury intoxication following employment in the fur hat industry. J Occup Med 1994; 36: 1260–4.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Amandus H, Costello J. Silicosis and lung cancer in U.S. metal miners. Arch Environ Health 1991; 46: 82–9.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kobal A, Dizdarevic T. The Health Safety Programme for Workers Exposed to Elemental Mercury at the Mercury Mine in Idrija. Conference on `Mercury as a Global Pollutant', Hamburg, 4-8 August, 1996.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Bellander T, Merler E, Ceccarelli F, Boffetta P. Historical exposure to inorganic mercury at the smelter works of Abbadia San Salvatore, Italy. Ann Occup Hyg 1998; 42: 81–90.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Breslow NE, Day NE. Statistical Methods in Cancer Research, Vol. II, The Design and Analysis of Cohort Studies (IARC Scientific Publications No. 82). Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1987.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Cigale M. Results of the uranium investigation in the minerals in the mine of Idrija. Geoloski zbornik 1983; 4: 205–12.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Hrubec Z, Blair AE, Rogot E, Vaught J. Mortality Risk by Occupation among U.S. Veterans of Known Smoking Status 1954-1980 (NIH Publication No. 92-3407). US National Institutes of Health, 1992.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Parkin DM, Whelan SL, Ferlay J, Raymond L, Young J, eds. Cancer Incidence in Five Continents, Vol. VII (IARC Scientific Publications No. 143). Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1997.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Percy C, Stanek E, Gloeckler L. Accuracy of cancer death certificates and its effect on cancer mortality statistics. Am J Publ Health 1981; 71: 242–50.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kosta L, Byrne AR, Zelenko V. Correlation between selenium and mercury in man following exposure to inorganic mercury. Nature 1975; 245: 238–9.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Parkin DM, Muir CS, Whelan SL, Gao YT, Ferlay J, Powell J, eds. Cancer Incidence in Five Continents, Vol. VI (IARC Scientific Publications No. 120). Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1992.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paolo Boffetta
    • 1
  • Montserrat Garcia-gómez
    • 2
  • Vera Pompe-Kirn
    • 3
  • David Zaridze
    • 4
  • Tom Bellander
    • 5
  • Mariana Bulbulyan
    • 4
  • Jose Diego Caballero
    • 6
  • Franco Ceccarelli
    • 7
  • Didier Colin
    • 1
  • Tatjana Dizdarevic
    • 8
  • Santiago Español
    • 9
  • Alfred Kobal
    • 8
  • Nina Petrova
    • 10
  • Gerd Sällsten
    • 11
  • Enzo Merler
    • 12
  1. 1.Unit of Environmental Cancer EpidemiologyInternational Agency for Research on CancerLyonFrance
  2. 2.Division of EpidemiologyMinistry of HealthMadridSpain
  3. 3.National Cancer RegistryInstitute of OncologyLjubljanaSlovenia
  4. 4.Cancer Research CentreInstitute of CarcinogenesisMoscowRussia
  5. 5.Department of Environmental HealthStockholmSweden
  6. 6.Industrial and Occupational ServiceCiudad RealSpain
  7. 7.National Health ServiceAbbadia San SalvatoreItaly
  8. 8.Idrija Mercury MineIdrijaSlovenia
  9. 9.Almaden and Arrayanes MinesAlmadenSpain
  10. 10.Nikitovka Sanitary StationNikitovkaUkraine
  11. 11.Department of Occupational MedicineUniversity of GöteborgSweden
  12. 12.Centre for the Study and Prevention of CancerFlorenceItaly

Personalised recommendations