International Journal of Cancer. 2008 May 13. [Epub ahead of print] [Link]
Fritschi L, Hoving JL, Sim MR, Del Monaco A, Macfarlane E, McKenzie D, Benke G, de Klerk N.
Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, Perth, Australia.
Bauxite is a reddish clay that is refined to produce alumina, which is then reduced to aluminium. There have been studies examining the health of workers in aluminium smelters, but not workers in bauxite mining and alumina refining. A cohort of employees of 1 large aluminium company since 1983 was assembled (n = 6,485, 5,828 men). Deaths and incident cancers to 2002 were ascertained by linkage to national and state cancer and death registries. SIRs and SMRs were calculated compared to national rates standardizing for calendar year, sex and 5-year age group. The mortality from all causes (SMR 0.68, 95% CI: 0.60-0.77), and from circulatory and respiratory diseases, all cancers combined and injury in the male cohort were lower than in the Australian male population and were similar across work groups and with duration of employment. The only significant increased mortality risk was from pleural mesothelioma. The incidence of all cancers combined was similar to the Australian rate. The cohort had a lower risk of incident lymphohaematopoietic cancer (SIR 0.50, 95% CI: 0.31-0.88) and a higher risk of melanoma (SIR 1.30, 95% CI: 1.00-1.69) although no dose-responses were seen. There was also an increased risk of mesothelioma (SIR 3.49, 95% CI: 1.82-6.71), which was associated with exposures outside the aluminium industry. This study is the first to examine cancer and mortality amongst workers in bauxite mines and alumina refineries and found little evidence for increased cancer incidence or mortality in these workers.