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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Cancer mortality among workers in chemical plant contaminated with dioxin.

Dioxin (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD) can arise as a contaminant in the production of herbicides. It causes chloracne in those exposed to it but its human carcinogenicity has been a matter of dispute. We report here a mortality follow-up of 1583 workers (1184 men, 399 women) employed in a chemical plant in Germany that produced herbicides, including processes contaminated with TCDD. Production of TCDD was reduced from 1954 after an outbreak of chloracne. Vital status up to 1989 was determined for 97.1% of workers hired between 1952 and 1984, and 367 deaths (313 men, 54 women) were recorded. A malignant neoplasm was the underlying cause of death in 93 men and 20 women. Standardised mortality ratios (SMR) were calculated with, as references, national mortality statistics for West Germany and deaths in a cohort of male gas workers; for total cancer mortality they were 1.24 (95% confidence interval 1.00-1.52) and 1.39 (1.10-1.75), respectively, among men. Cancer mortality was increased among men with 20 or more years of employment (SMR = 1.87 [Germany] and 1.82 [gas workers]) and among men who began employment before 1955 (SMR = 1.61 and 1.87). The group with suspected highest exposure to TCDD had SMRs of 1.42 and 1.78. Only 7% of cohort women worked in the high exposure locations in the plant, compared with 39.6% of men, and no increased risk of cancer mortality was observed among women; but breast cancer mortality was raised ( SRM = 2.15). These results, together with a US occupational study and a German investigation of accidental exposure, support the hypothesis that TCDD is a human carcinogen.[1]


  1. Cancer mortality among workers in chemical plant contaminated with dioxin. Manz, A., Berger, J., Dwyer, J.H., Flesch-Janys, D., Nagel, S., Waltsgott, H. Lancet (1991) [Pubmed]
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