IRSN, Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire

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Enhancing Nuclear Safety



Analysis of cancer mortality risk among workers of a research uranium metallurgy division in France

Jejati-Baysson, H.; Laurier, D.; Tirmarche, M. ; Giraud, J.M. IAEA-TECDOC--976, 461-464, International conference on low doses of ionizing radiation: Biological effects and regulatory control. Seville (Spain). 17-21 Nov 1997


This cohort study has been undertaken in response to a suspected cluster of cancers mentioned by workers involved in research activities concerning the metallurgy of uranium. The studied population included all persons having worked between 1950 and 1968 at the Metallurgy Division of the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). Exposures were registered on an individual annual basis. For analysis, they were grouped in three categories: use of chemicals agents (Benzene, beryllium, alcohols, solvents ...), manipulation of radioactive materials (uranium, thorium, fission decay products), and exposure to external radiation. This relatively small cohort included 356 workers followed up to December 1990. Out of observed deaths, 21 were from cancer. Total mortality from cancer was less than expected from national rates (Standardised Mortality Ratio = 0.73). Cancer mortality did not increase with duration of exposure to external radiation or with duration of manipulation of radioactive materials. Risk of cancer was increasing with the number of years of exposure to chemicals. The small size of this cohort limits the conclusion of the observed results. The purpose, despite this lack of power, was to answer a worry of the workers, more than to estimate a clear dose-response relationship linked to a specific cancer site. The effect studied here is ''all cancers'', a distinction of the different sites being uninformative because of the very small number of cases observed. Nevertheless, this study suggests some routes for further research: it highlights the importance of considering concomitant exposures like chemical ones in studies of nuclear workers.


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