Background. In 1994, a hazardous waste site, polluted by the dumping of solvents from a former electronics factory, was discovered in Taoyuan, Taiwan. This subsequently emerged as a serious case of contamination through chlorinated hydrocarbons with suspected occupational cancer. The objective of this study was to determine if there was any increased risk of breast cancer among female workers in a 23-year follow-up period. Methods. A total of 63,982 female workers were retrospectively recruited from the database of the Bureau of Labor Insurance (BLI) covering the period 1973-1997; the data were then linked with data, up to 2001, from the National Cancer Registry at the Taiwanese Department of Health, from which standardized incidence ratios (SIRs) for different types of cancer were calculated as compared to the general population. Results. There were a total of 286 cases of breast cancer, and after adjustment for calendar year and age, the SIR was close to 1. When stratified by the year 1974 (the year in which the regulations on solvent use were promulgated), the SIR of the cohort of workers who were first employed prior to 1974 increased to 1.38 (95% confidence interval, 1.11-1.70). No such trend was discernible for workers employed after 1974. When 10 years of employment was considered, there was a further increase in the SIR for breast cancer, to 1.62. Those workers with breast cancer who were first employed prior to 1974 were employed at a younger age and for a longer period. Previous qualitative studies of interviews with the workers, corroborated by inspection records, showed a short-term high exposure to chlorinated alkanes and alkenes, particularly trichloroethylene before 1974. There were no similar findings on other types of cancer. Conclusion. Female workers with exposure to trichloroethylene and/or mixture of solvents, first employed prior to 1974, may have an excess risk of breast cancer.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health