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Metalworking fluids and cancer mortality in a US autoworker cohort (1941–2015)


Objectives This report describes the extended follow-up (1941-2015) of a cohort of 38 549 automobile manufacturing workers with potential exposure to metalworking fluids (MWF). The outcomes of interest were mortality from cancers of the esophagus, stomach, intestine, rectum, bladder, liver, pancreas, larynx, lung, skin, prostate, brain, and female breast, as well as leukemia. This report includes 5472 deaths from cancer, more than ten times the numbers of deaths in our last summary report published 20 years ago. Methods Standardized mortality ratios were computed for the entire study period. Adjusted hazard ratios (HR) were estimated in Cox proportional hazard models with categorical variables for cumulative exposure to each type of MWF. Results Exposure-response patterns are consistent with prior mortality reports from this cohort. We found increased risk of skin and female breast cancer with straight fluids. For the first time, we found elevated risk of stomach cancer mortality. Overall, many of the exposure-response results did not suggest an association with MWF. Conclusions Mortality is a poor proxy for cancer diagnosis for treatable cancers and not the optimal outcome measure in etiological studies. Although the HR presented here handle bias from the healthy worker hire effect and left truncation, they do not handle bias from healthy worker survivor effect, which likely results in underestimates of the health impacts of MWF. Although this updated summary provides some information on the risk of cancer from MWF, targeted future analyses will help clarify associations.

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