Cancer incidence among Finnish male cobalt production workers in 1969-2013: a cohort study.

There is inadequate evidence for the carcinogenicity of cobalt and cobalt compounds in humans. Consequently, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has evaluated cobalt metal without tungsten carbide as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). The aim of the study was to assess the risk of cancer among workers employed in a Finnish cobalt plant since the beginning of production in 1968. The study cohort consisted of all males employed by the Finnish cobalt plant for at least a year during 1968-2004. The follow-up for cancer was performed by studying the files of the Finnish Cancer Registry, using personal identity codes as a key. The cohort was divided into subcohorts by exposure levels. Standardised incidence ratios (SIRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated as ratios of the observed numbers of cancer cases and the numbers expected on the basis of incidence rates in the population of the same region. The follow-up cohort consisted of 995 men with 26,083 person-years. During the follow-up period, 92 cases of cancer were diagnosed (SIR 1.00, 95% CI 0.81-1.22), six of which were lung cancer cases (SIR 0.50; 95% CI 0.18-1.08). The only cancer type with increased incidence was tongue cancer (three cases, SIR 7.39; 95% CI 1.52-21.6). We observed no dose-response effect across the different exposure levels and the incidence of any cancer type. The authors concluded that the results suggest that occupational exposure to cobalt is not associated with an increased overall cancer risk or lung cancer risk among cobalt workers. Because of the small number of cancer cases the results must be interpreted with caution.

Authors: Sauni R, Oksa P, Uitti J, Linna A, Kerttula R, Pukkala E. ;Full Source: BMC Cancer. 2017 May 18;17(1):340. doi: 10.1186/s12885-017-3333-2. ;