Mortality of workers exposed to ethylene oxide: extended follow up of a British cohort

Coggon, D., Harris, E.C., Poole, J. and Palmer, K.T. (2004) Mortality of workers exposed to ethylene oxide: extended follow up of a British cohort. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 61, (4), 358-362. (doi:10.1136/oem.2003.008268).


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Aims: To obtain further information about the risks of cancer associated with occupational exposure to ethylene oxide

Methods: Follow up was extended by 13 years for a cohort of 2876 men and women with definite or potential exposure to ethylene oxide in the chemical industry or in hospital sterilising units. Subjects were traced through National Health Service and social security records, and their mortality was compared with that expected from rates in the national population by the person-years method.

Results: Analysis was based on 565 deaths, of which 339 had occurred during the additional period of follow up. Mortality was close to or below expectation for all causes (565 deaths v 607.6 expected), all cancers (188 v 184.2), and for all specific categories of malignancy including stomach cancer (10 v 11.6), breast cancer (11 v 13.2), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (7 v 4.8), and leukaemia (5 v 4.6). All five deaths from leukaemia occurred in the subset of subjects with greatest potential for exposure to ethylene oxide, but even in this group the excess of deaths was small (2.6 expected).

Conclusions: The balance of evidence from this and other epidemiological investigations indicates that any risk of human cancer from ethylene oxide is low, particularly at the levels of occupational exposure that have occurred in Britain over recent decades. This may reflect the capacity of human cells to repair DNA damage caused by the chemical, which is a potent genotoxin and animal carcinogen.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1136/oem.2003.008268
ISSNs: 1351-0711 (print)
Related URLs:
Keywords: England, cohort studies, exposure, methods, non-hodgkin's lymphoma, health, female, chemically induced, cancer, epidemiology, occupational exposure, humans, follow-up studies, research support, dna, ethylene oxide, cause of death, industry,adverse effects, male, occupational diseases, mortality, etiology, analysis, toxicity, environmental, chemical industry, Britain, human, risk, cohort,'t, disinfectants, lymphoma, population, breast cancer, dna damage, neoplasms
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0254 Neoplasms. Tumors. Oncology (including Cancer)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Medicine > Community Clinical Sciences
ePrint ID: 24303
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2006
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 11:45

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