Cancer incidence of Taiwanese shipbreaking workers who have been potentially exposed to asbestos

period. Shipbreaking remains one of the most dangerous jobs worldwide. Shipbreaking workers are exposed to many hazardous chemicals, especially asbestos. Unfortunately, long-term follow-up studies of cancer incidence patterns in shipbreaking workers are lacking. This study examines whether there is an increased risk of cancer among male shipbreaking workers over a 24-year follow-up period. Four thousand, one hundred and fifty-five male shipbreaking worker’s information was retrospectively collected from Kaohsiung’s Shipbreaking Workers Union database from 1985. The study cohort was linked to the Taiwan Cancer Registry from 1985 to 2008 for new cancer cases. The expected number of cancers for shipbreaking workers was calculated by using the age (5-year intervals) and calendar time-specific annual rates of cancer incidence with reference to the general population of Taiwan from 1985 to 2008. Standardised incidence ratios (SIRs) were calculated as relative risk estimates. The hazard ratio (HR) for cancer was calculated for the shipbreaking workers with Total Exposure Potential Scores for asbestos. After consideration of a 5-year latency period, an elevated incidence of overall cancer (N=368; SIR=1.13 (1.01-1.25)), oral cavity cancer (N=83; SIR=1.99 (1.58-2.46)), and trachea, bronchus, and lung cancers (N=53; SIR=1.36 (1.02-1.78)) was found among male shipbreaking employees. Moreover, mesothelioma cases were found in those who had the occupation of flame cutter. The high asbestos exposure group was associated with an increased SIR of developing overall cancer and oral cancer, whether we considered a 5-year or 10-year latency period. The authors concluded that asbestos-related diseases, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, were seen in excess in these shipbreaking workers and some cases appeared to have a dose-dependent relationship. Preventative measures among male shipbreaking workers should be researched further.

Authors: Wu WT, Lin YJ, Shiue HS, Li CY, Tsai PJ, Yang CY, Liou SH, Wu TN. ;Full Source: Environmental Research 2014 Jul;132:370-8. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2014.04.026. Epub 2014 May 15. ;