Secondary Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:


Walsh, Linda; Dufey, Florian; Tschense, Annemarie; Schnelzer, Maria; Grosche, Bernd; Kreuzer, Michaela*

doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e3181cd669d
Epidemiology on Internally Deposited Radionuclides: Paper

Uranium mining occurred between 1946 and 1990 at the former Wismut mining company in East Germany. 58,987 male former employees form the largest single uranium miners cohort, which has been followed up for causes of mortality occurring from the beginning of 1946 to the end of 2003. The purpose of this paper is to present the radon exposure related cancer mortality risk based on 20,920 deaths, 2 million person-years, and 6,373 cancers. The latter include 3,016 lung cancers and 3,053 extrapulmonary solid cancers. Internal Poisson regression was used to estimate the excess relative risk (ERR) per unit of cumulative radon exposure in Working Level Months (WLM) for all major sites and for the follow-up period from 1946 to 2003. The simple cohort ERR WLM−1 for lung cancer is 0.20% [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.17%; 0.22%]. The ERR model for lung cancer is linear in radon exposure with exponential effect modifiers that depend on age at median exposure, time since median exposure, and radon exposure-rate. In this model the central estimate of ERR WLM−1 is 1.06% (95% CI: 0.69%; 1.42%) for an age at median exposure of 33 y, a time since median exposure of 11 y, and an exposure-rate of 2.7 WL. This central ERR decreases by 5% for each unit exposure-rate increase. The ERR decreases by 32% with each decade increase in age at median exposure and also decreases by 54% with each decade increase in time since median exposure. The ERR WLM−1 for all extrapulmonary solid cancers combined without effect modification is 0.014% (95% CI: 0.006%; 0.023%). The ERR model for extrapulmonary solid cancer is linear in radon exposure with an exponential effect modifier which depends on age-attained. In this model the central estimate of ERR WLM−1 is 0.040% (95% CI: −0.001%; 0.082%) for an age-attained of 44. The ERR decreases by 37% with each decade increase in age-attained. The highest ERR WLM−1, after lung, is observed for cancers of the pharynx (0.16%), tongue/mouth (0.045%), and liver (0.04%).

* Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Department “Radiation Protection and Health,” Ingolstaedter Landstr. 1, 85764 Oberschleissheim, Germany.

For correspondence contact Linda Walsh at the above address, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 1 December 2009)

©2010Health Physics Society