We expanded an existing cohort of workers (n = 2,588) considered highly exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at two capacitor manufacturing plants to include all workers with at least 90 days of potential PCB exposure during 1939–1977 (n = 14,458). Causes of death of a priori interest included liver and rectal cancers, previously reported for the original cohort, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), melanoma, and breast, brain, intestine, stomach, and prostate cancers, based on other studies.
We ascertained vital status of the workers through 1998, and cumulative PCB exposure was estimated using a new job exposure matrix. Analyses employed standardized mortality ratios (SMRs; U.S., state, and county referents) and Poisson regression modeling.
Mortality from NHL, melanoma, and rectal, breast, and brain cancers were neither in excess nor associated with cumulative exposure. Mortality was not elevated for liver cancer [21 deaths; SMR 0.89; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.55–1.36], but increased with cumulative exposure (trend p-value = 0.071). Among men, stomach cancer mortality was elevated (24 deaths; SMR 1.53; 95% CI, 0.98–2.28) and increased with cumulative exposure (trend p-value = 0.039). Among women, intestinal cancer mortality was elevated (67 deaths; SMR 1.31; 95% CI, 1.02–1.66), especially in higher cumulative exposure categories, but without a clear trend. Prostate cancer mortality, which was not elevated (34 deaths; SMR 1.04; 95% CI, 0.72–1.45), increased with cumulative exposure (trend p-value = 0.0001).
This study corroborates previous studies showing increased liver cancer mortality, but we cannot clearly associate rectal, stomach, and intestinal cancers with PCB exposure. This is the first PCB cohort showing a strong exposure–response relationship for prostate cancer mortality.