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RADON AND LUNG CANCER RISK: AN EXTENSION OF THE MORTALITY FOLLOW-UP OF THE NEWFOUNDLAND FLUORSPAR COHORT

Villeneuve, Paul J.*†; Morrison, Howard I.‡; Lane, Rachel§

doi: 10.1097/01.HP.0000239127.43136.89
Paper

Radon is a well-recognized cause of lung cancer, and studies of underground miners have provided invaluable insights on the mechanisms of radon carcinogenesis. Given the dramatic decreases in occupational exposures and the latent interval between the time of exposure and the development of lung cancer, continued follow-up of these cohorts is needed to address uncertainties in risk estimates. Here, we report on the relationship between radon and lung cancer mortality in a cohort of 1,742 Newfoundland fluorspar miners between 1950 and 2001; follow-up has been extended 11 y from previous analyses. The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) was used to compare the mortality experience of the cohort to similarly aged Newfoundland males. Poisson regression methods were used to characterize the radon-lung cancer relationship with respect to: age at first exposure, attained age, time since last exposure, interactions with cigarette smoking, and exposure rate. In total, 191 lung cancers were observed among underground miners (SMR = 3.09; 95% CI = 2.66, 3.56). ERR/WLMs decreased with attained age and time since last exposure. An inverse dose-rate effect was observed, while age at first exposure was not associated with lung cancer risk. An important strength of this study is that the effects of gamma radiation, thoron, and radioactive dust, common exposures in other miner studies, can be ruled out because the source of radon was from water running through the mine. However, the results should be interpreted cautiously due to uncertainties associated with the estimation of radon exposure levels before ventilation was introduced into the mine, and the relatively small number of lung cancer deaths that precluded joint modeling of multiple risk factors.

* Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Epistream Consulting, Inc., Ottawa, ON; Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

For correspondence contact: Paul Villeneuve, Epistream Consulting, 128 West Village, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1Z 1E3, or email at paul.villeneuve@utoronto.ca.

(Manuscript accepted 21 July 2006)

©2007Health Physics Society