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1.  Site-specific cancer risk in the Baltic cohort of Chernobyl cleanup workers, 1986–2007 
To assess site-specific cancer risk in the Baltic cohort of Chernobyl cleanup workers 1986–2007.
The Baltic cohort includes 17,040 men from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who participated in the environmental cleanup after the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station in 1986–1991, and who were followed for cancer incidence until the end of 2007. Cancer cases diagnosed in the cohort and in the male population of each country were identified from the respective national cancer registers. The proportional incidence ratio (PIR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) was used to estimate the site-specific cancer risk in the cohort. For comparison and as it was possible, the site-specific standardized incidence ratio (SIR) was calculated for the Estonian sub-cohort, which was not feasible for the other countries.
Overall, 756 cancer cases were reported during 1986–2007. A higher proportion of thyroid cancers in relation to the male population was found (PIR=2.76; 95%CI 1.63–4.36), especially among those who started their mission shortly after the accident, in April–May 1986 (PIR=6.38; 95% CI 2.34–13.89). Also, an excess of oesophageal cancers was noted (PIR=1.52; 95% CI 1.06–2.11). No increased PIRs for leukaemia or radiation-related cancer sites combined were observed. PIRs and SIRs for the Estonian sub-cohort demonstrated the same site-specific cancer risk pattern.
Consistent evidence of an increase in radiation-related cancers in the Baltic cohort was not observed with the possible exception of thyroid cancer, where conclusions are hampered by known medical examination including thyroid screening among cleanup workers.
PMCID: PMC3739289  PMID: 23683549
Chernobyl nuclear accident; neoplasms; incidence; radiation effects; Estonia; Latvia; Lithuania
2.  Chernobyl cleanup workers from Estonia: follow-up for cancer incidence and mortality 
This study examined cancer incidence (1986–2008) and mortality (1986–2011) among the Estonian Chernobyl cleanup workers in comparison with the Estonian male population. The cohort of 4,810 men was followed through nationwide population, mortality and cancer registries. Cancer and death risks were measured by standardized incidence ratio (SIR) and standardized mortality ratio (SMR), respectively. Poisson regression was used to analyze the effects of year of arrival, duration of stay, and time since return on cancer and death risks. The SIR for all cancers was 1.06 with 95% confidence interval 0.93–1.20 (232 cases). Elevated risks were found for cancers of pharynx, oesophagus, and the joint category of alcohol-related sites. No clear evidence of an increased risk of thyroid cancer, leukaemia, or radiation-related cancer sites combined was apparent. The SMR for all causes of death was 1.02 with 95% confidence interval 0.96–1.08 (1,018 deaths). Excess mortality was observed for mouth and pharynx cancer, alcohol-related cancer sites together, and suicide. Duration of stay rather than year of arrival was associated with increased mortality. Twenty-six years of follow-up of this cohort indicates no definite health effects attributable to radiation, but the elevated suicide risk has persisted.
PMCID: PMC3720997  PMID: 23532116
3.  Non-cancer morbidity among Estonian Chernobyl cleanup workers: a register-based cohort study 
BMJ Open  2014;4(5):e004516.
To examine non-cancer morbidity in the Estonian Chernobyl cleanup workers cohort compared with the population sample with special attention to radiation-related diseases and mental health disorders.
Register-based cohort study.
An exposed cohort of 3680 men (cleanup workers) and an unexposed cohort of 7631 men (population sample) were followed from 2004 to 2012 through the Population Registry and Health Insurance Fund database.
Morbidity in the exposed cohort compared with the unexposed controls was estimated in terms of rate ratio (RR) with 95% CIs using Poisson regression models.
Elevated morbidity in the exposed cohort was found for diseases of the nervous system, digestive system, musculoskeletal system, ischaemic heart disease and for external causes. The most salient excess risk was observed for thyroid diseases (RR=1.69; 95% CI 1.38 to 2.07), intentional self-harm (RR=1.47; 95% CI 1.04 to 2.09) and selected alcohol-related diagnoses (RR=1.25; 95% CI 1.12 to 1.39). No increase in morbidity for stress reactions, depression, headaches or sleep disorders was detected.
No obvious excess morbidity consistent with biological effects of radiation was seen in the exposed cohort, with the possible exception of benign thyroid diseases. Increased alcohol-induced morbidity may reflect alcohol abuse, and could underlie some of the higher morbidity rates. Mental disorders in the exposed cohort were probably under-reported. The future challenge will be to study mental and physical comorbidities in the Chernobyl cleanup workers cohort.
PMCID: PMC4024594  PMID: 24833681
alcohol-induced disorders; Chernobyl nuclear accident; Estonia; MENTAL HEALTH; morbidity; radiation effects
4.  Complement factor H genetic variant and age-related macular degeneration: effect size, modifiers and relationship to disease subtype 
Background Variation in the complement factor H gene (CFH) is associated with risk of late age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Previous studies have been case–control studies in populations of European ancestry with little differentiation in AMD subtype, and insufficient power to confirm or refute effect modification by smoking.
Methods To precisely quantify the association of the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP rs1061170, ‘Y402H’) with risk of AMD among studies with differing study designs, participant ancestry and AMD grade and to investigate effect modification by smoking, we report two unpublished genetic association studies (n = 2759) combined with data from 24 published studies (26 studies, 26 494 individuals, including 14 174 cases of AMD) of European ancestry, 10 of which provided individual-level data used to test gene–smoking interaction; and 16 published studies from non-European ancestry.
Results In individuals of European ancestry, there was a significant association between Y402H and late-AMD with a per-allele odds ratio (OR) of 2.27 [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.10–2.45; P = 1.1 x 10−161]. There was no evidence of effect modification by smoking (P = 0.75). The frequency of Y402H varied by ancestral origin and the association with AMD in non-Europeans was less clear, limited by paucity of studies.
Conclusion The Y402H variant confers a 2-fold higher risk of late-AMD per copy in individuals of European descent. This was stable to stratification by study design and AMD classification and not modified by smoking. The lack of association in non-Europeans requires further verification. These findings are of direct relevance for disease prediction. New research is needed to ascertain if differences in circulating levels, expression or activity of factor H protein explain the genetic association.
PMCID: PMC3304526  PMID: 22253316
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD); Complement factor H gene; meta-ananlysis
5.  Evidence of association of APOE with age-related macular degeneration - a pooled analysis of 15 studies 
Human mutation  2011;32(12):1407-1416.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of incurable visual impairment in high-income countries. Previous studies report inconsistent associations between AMD and apolipoprotein E (APOE), a lipid transport protein involved in low-density cholesterol modulation. Potential interaction between APOE and sex, and smoking status, has been reported. We present a pooled analysis (n=21,160) demonstrating associations between late AMD and APOε4 (OR=0.72 per haplotype; CI: 0.65–0.74; P=4.41×10−11) and APOε2 (OR=1.83 for homozygote carriers; CI: 1.04–3.23; P=0.04), following adjustment for age-group and sex within each study and smoking status. No evidence of interaction between APOE and sex or smoking was found. Ever smokers had significant increased risk relative to never smokers for both neovascular (OR=1.54; CI: 1.38–1.72; P=2.8×10−15) and atrophic (OR=1.38; CI: 1.18–1.61; P=3.37×10−5) AMD but not early AMD (OR=0.94; CI: 0.86–1.03; P=0.16), implicating smoking as a major contributing factor to disease progression from early signs to the visually disabling late forms. Extended haplotype analysis incorporating rs405509 did not identify additional risks beyondε2 and ε4 haplotypes. Our expanded analysis substantially improves our understanding of the association between the APOE locus and AMD. It further provides evidence supporting the role of cholesterol modulation, and low-density cholesterol specifically, in AMD disease etiology.
PMCID: PMC3217135  PMID: 21882290
age-related macular degeneration; AMD; apolipoprotein E; APOE; case-control association study
6.  Variations in Apolipoprotein E Frequency With Age in a Pooled Analysis of a Large Group of Older People 
American Journal of Epidemiology  2011;173(12):1357-1364.
Variation in the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE) has been reported to be associated with longevity in humans. The authors assessed the allelic distribution of APOE isoforms ε2, ε3, and ε4 among 10,623 participants from 15 case-control and cohort studies of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in populations of European ancestry (study dates ranged from 1990 to 2009). The authors included only the 10,623 control subjects from these studies who were classified as having no evidence of AMD, since variation within the APOE gene has previously been associated with AMD. In an analysis stratified by study center, gender, and smoking status, there was a decreasing frequency of the APOE ε4 isoform with increasing age (χ2 for trend = 14.9 (1 df); P = 0.0001), with a concomitant increase in the ε3 isoform (χ2 for trend = 11.3 (1 df); P = 0.001). The association with age was strongest in ε4 homozygotes; the frequency of ε4 homozygosity decreased from 2.7% for participants aged 60 years or less to 0.8% for those over age 85 years, while the proportion of participants with the ε3/ε4 genotype decreased from 26.8% to 17.5% across the same age range. Gender had no significant effect on the isoform frequencies. This study provides strong support for an association of the APOE gene with human longevity.
PMCID: PMC3145394  PMID: 21498624
aged; apolipoprotein E2; apolipoprotein E3; apolipoprotein E4; apolipoproteins E; longevity; meta-analysis; multicenter study
7.  Experiences of a long-term randomized controlled prevention trial in a maiden environment: Estonian Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy trial 
Preventive drugs require long-term trials to show their effectiveness or harms and often a lot of changes occur during post-marketing studies. The purpose of this article is to describe the research process in a long-term randomized controlled trial and discuss the impact and consequences of changes in the research environment.
The Estonian Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy trial (EPHT), originally planned to continue for five years, was planned in co-operation with the Women's International Study of Long-Duration Oestrogen after Menopause (WISDOM) in the UK. In addition to health outcomes, EPHT was specifically designed to study the impact of postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT) on health services utilization.
After EPHT recruited in 1999–2001 the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) in the USA decided to stop the estrogen-progestin trial after a mean of 5.2 years in July 2002 because of increased risk of breast cancer and later in 2004 the estrogen-only trial because HT increased the risk of stroke, decreased the risk of hip fracture, and did not affect coronary heart disease incidence. WISDOM was halted in autumn 2002. These decisions had a major influence on EPHT.
Changes in Estonian society challenged EPHT to find a balance between the needs of achieving responses to the trial aims with a limited budget and simultaneously maintaining the safety of trial participants. Flexibility was the main key for success. Rapid changes are not limited only to transiting societies but are true also in developed countries and the risk must be included in planning all long-term trials.
The role of ethical and data monitoring committees in situations with emerging new data from other studies needs specification. Longer funding for preventive trials and more flexibility in budgeting are mandatory. Who should prove the effectiveness of an (old) drug for a new preventive indication? In preventive drug trials companies may donate drugs but they take a financial risk, especially with licensed drugs. Public funding is crucial to avoid commercial biases. Legislation to share the costs of large post-marketing trials as well as regulation of manufacturer's participation is needed. [ISRCTN35338757]
PMCID: PMC2529341  PMID: 18673555
8.  Symptom reporting and quality of life in the Estonian Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy Trial 
BMC Women's Health  2008;8:5.
The aim of the study was to determine the effect of postmenopausal hormone therapy on women's symptom reporting and quality of life in a randomized trial.
1823 women participated in the Estonian Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy (EPHT) Trial between 1999 and 2004. Women were randomized to open-label continuous combined hormone therapy or no treatment, or to blind hormone therapy or placebo. The average follow-up period was 3.6 years. Prevalence of symptoms and quality of life according to EQ-5D were assessed by annually mailed questionnaires.
In the hormone therapy arms, less women reported hot flushes (OR 0.20; 95% CI: 0.14–0.28), sweating (OR 0.56; 95% CI: 0.44–0.72), and sleeping problems (OR 0.66; 95% CI: 0.52–0.84), but more women reported episodes of vaginal bleeding (OR 19.65; 95% CI: 12.15–31.79). There was no difference between the trial arms in the prevalence of other symptoms over time. Quality of life did not depend on hormone therapy use.
Postmenopausal hormone therapy decreased vasomotor symptoms and sleeping problems, but increased episodes of vaginal bleeding, and had no effect on quality of life.
Trial registration number
PMCID: PMC2330032  PMID: 18366766
9.  Who wants to join preventive trials? – Experience from the Estonian Postmenopausal Hormone Therapy Trial [ISRCTN35338757] 
The interest of patients in participating in randomized clinical trials involving treatments has been widely studied, but there has been much less research on interest in preventive trials. The objective of this study was to find out how many women would be interested in a trial involving postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT) and how the women's background characteristics and opinions correlated to their interest.
The data come from recruitment questionnaires (n = 2000) sent to women in Estonia in 1998. A random sample of women aged 45 to 64 was drawn from the Population Registry. The trial is a two-group randomized trial comparing estrogen-progestogen therapy with placebo or no drugs. A brief description of the study was attached to the questionnaires. Women were not told at this stage of the recruitment which group they would be assigned to, however, they were told of the chance to receive either hormone, placebo or no treatment.
After two reminders, 1312 women (66%) responded. Eleven percent of the women approached (17% of the respondents) were interested in joining the trial, and 8% wanted more information before deciding. When the 225 women who stated clearly that they were interested in joining and the 553 women who said they were not interested were compared, it was found that interested women were younger and, adjusting for age, that more had given birth; in other respects, the sociodemographic characteristics and health habits of the interested women were similar to those of the non-interested women. The interested women had made more use of more health services, calcium preparations and PHT, they were more often overweight, and more had chronic diseases and reported symptoms. Interested women's opinions on the menopause were more negative, and they favoured PHT more than the non-interested women.
Unlike the situation described in previous reports on preventive trials, in this case Estonian women interested in participating in a PHT trial were not healthier than other women. This suggests that trials involving PHT are more similar to treatment trials than to preventive trials. In a randomized controlled trial, more information should be obtained from those women who decline to participate.
PMCID: PMC1090584  PMID: 15826311

Results 1-9 (9)