Mortality study of cancer risk among oil refinery workers

Pier Alberto Bertazzi, Angela C. Pesatori, Carlo Zocchetti, Raffaele Latocca

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The mortality experience of 1595 male workers employed in one of the largest Italian refineries in the period from 1949-1982 was examined. From the comparison with national and local death rates, increases in mortality owing to lung and kidney cancers, brain tumors, and leukemias emerged. No definite trends according to duration of exposure and years since first exposure were apparent. The increases regarding cancer of the lung, kidney and brain appeared to be associated with the early period of operations. Analysis by exposure category suggested an association of the increased mortality from leukemias with working in production (observed = 2; expected = 0.61). Kidney cancer mortality was elevated among maintenance workers (obs. = 2; exp. = 0.18). Small numbers prevented firmer conclusions. Workers in the moving department had a significantly increased mortality from all cancers (obs. = 22; exp. = 11.7), and lung cancer (obs. = 11; exp. = 3.6). Confounding by smoking could be excluded as sufficient explanation of the three-fold increase in lung cancer deaths. It was in moving that highest airborne levels of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons had been discovered in an independent environmental investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-270
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1989


  • Epidemiology
  • Mortality
  • Occupational cancer
  • Oil refinery
  • Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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