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Cancer Mortality Among US Workers Employed in Semiconductor Wafer Fabrication

Boice, John D. Jr ScD; Marano, Donald E. PE, CIH; Munro, Heather M. MS; Chadda, Bandana K. MPH; Signorello, Lisa B. ScD; Tarone, Robert E. PhD; Blot, William J. PhD; McLaughlin, Joseph K. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: November 2010 - Volume 52 - Issue 11 - p 1082–1097
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3181f7e520
Original Articles

Objective: To evaluate potential cancer risks in the US semiconductor wafer fabrication industry.

Methods: A cohort of 100,081 semiconductor workers employed between 1968 and 2002 was studied. Standardized mortality ratios and relative risks (RRs) were estimated.

Results: Standardized mortality ratios were similar and significantly low among fabrication and nonfabrication workers for all causes (0.54 and 0.54) and all cancers (0.74 and 0.72). Internal comparisons also showed similar overall cancer risks among fabrication workers (RR = 0.98), including process equipment operators and process equipment service technicians (OP/EST) employed in cleanrooms (RR = 0.97), compared with nonfabrication workers. Nonsignificantly elevated RRs were observed for a few cancer sites among OP/EST workers, but the numbers of deaths were small and there were no trends of increasing risk with duration of employment.

Conclusions: Work in the US semiconductor industry, including semiconductor wafer fabrication in cleanrooms, was not associated with increased cancer mortality overall or mortality from any specific form of cancer. However, due to the young average age of this cohort and its associated relatively low numbers of deaths, regular mortality updates of this semiconductor worker cohort are warranted.

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From the Vanderbilt University Department of Medicine and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (Drs Boice, Signorello, Tarone, Blot, and McLaughlin), Nashville, Tenn; the International Epidemiology Institute (Drs Boice, Signorello, Tarone, Blot, McLaughlin and Mss Munro and Chadda), Rockville, Md; and IHI Environmental (Mr Marano), Salt Lake City, Utah.

Address correspondence to: Joseph K. McLaughlin, PhD, International Epidemiology Institute, 1455 Research Blvd, Suite 550, Rockville, MD 20850; E-mail:

©2010The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine