Cancer incidence among Minnesota taconite mining industry workers

Elizabeth M. Allen, Bruce H. Alexander, Richard F. MacLehose, Heather H. Nelson, Gurumurthy Ramachandran, Jeffrey H. Mandel

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19 Scopus citations


Purpose: To evaluate cancer incidence among Minnesota taconite mining workers. Methods: We evaluated cancer incidence between 1988 and 2010 in a cohort of 40,720 Minnesota taconite mining workers used between 1937 and 1983. Standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated by comparing numbers of incident cancers with frequencies in the Minnesota Cancer Surveillance System. SIRs for lung cancer by histologic subtypes were also estimated. We adjusted for out-of-state migration and conducted a probabilistic bias analysis for smoking-related cancers. Results: A total of 5700 cancers were identified, including 51 mesotheliomas and 973 lung cancers. The SIRs for lung cancer and mesothelioma were 1.3 (95% CI = 1.2-1.4) and 2.4 (95% CI = 1.8-3.2), respectively. Stomach, laryngeal, and bladder cancers were also elevated. However, adjusting for potential confounding by smoking attenuated the estimates for lung (SIR = 1.1, 95% CI = 1.0-1.3), laryngeal (SIR = 1.2, 95% CI = 0.8-1.6), oral (SIR = 0.9, 95% CI = 0.7-1.2), and bladder cancers (SIR = 1.0, 95% CI = 0.8-1.1). Conclusions: Taconite workers may have an increased risk for certain cancers. Lifestyle and work-related factors may play a role in elevated morbidity. The extent to which mining-related exposures contribute to disease burden is being investigated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)811-815.e1
JournalAnnals of epidemiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research is supported with funding from the State of Minnesota. E.M.A. was supported in part by the Midwest Center for Occupational Safety and Health under training grant CDC/NIOSH 2T42 OH008434 and by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award number R25CA163184.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Epidemiology
  • Neoplasms
  • Occupational exposure
  • Taconite


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