PURPOSE: The aim is to investigate associations between mortality and exposure to ionizing radiation in a cohort of uranium workers with potential for internal and external radiation exposures.
METHODS: Workers employed for at least 6 months between 1958 and 2006 in five plants involved in the French nuclear fuel cycle were included and followed up between 1968 and 2013. Cause-specific standardized mortality ratios were calculated. Analyses of associations between individual cumulative radiation dose (both internal and external, lagged by 5-15 years) and mortality were conducted using Poisson regression.
RESULTS: The cohort includes 4541 workers. The mean cumulative external dose was 11.12 mGy. Mean cumulative internal doses ranged, depending on modelling hypotheses, from 0.05 to 0.09 mGy (liver) and from 4.22 to 10.90 mGy (lung). At the end of the follow-up, 838 workers were deceased and 28 lost to follow-up. A healthy worker effect was observed. The risk of prostate and lung cancers mortality was significantly higher for workers exposed to cumulative external dose above 50 mGy compared to non-exposed, but these associations were based only on three cases and became non-significant, although of similar magnitude, after adjustment for smoking. Associations with internal dose showed no consistent pattern.
CONCLUSIONS: For the first time, a study was conducted in a French cohort of uranium workers with a complete reconstruction of internal dose. Results are preliminary and must be interpreted with caution because of the limited cohort size and significant sources of uncertainty. Future steps of this study will overcome these limitations.