Lead Exposure Tied to Brain Cancer

A new study from the University of Rochester’s Medical Center has indicated that prolonged workplace exposure to lead. Those routinely exposed to lead had a nearly 50% higher chance of dying from the cancer. Despite causing nearly 2.5% of all cancer deaths, a total of approximately 13,000 deaths a year, very little is known about the cause of brain cancer. The only known cause of brain and spinal cord tumors is exposure to radiation.

Survey Findings
Previous studies into a lead-brain cancer link have had inconclusive results. However, this most recent study has proved for the first time a link between environmental conditions and brain cancer. The data for the most recent studies were compiled from the United States Census and the National Death Index and is believed to be the largest study of its kind to establish such a link.

The survey used just under 318,000 test subjects who reported their occupations between 1979 and 1980. The goal of researchers was to find if there was indeed a higher cancer rate or mortality rate in those who had lead related occupations. The goal of studies such as this one is to establish environmental risk factors both in the work place and out so they can be prevented. Put into action, the results of a survey of this type would be able to reduce both the number of incidences of cancer and the mortality rate of the cases.

The role jobs play
One of the key aspects of this study was to analyze each job based on reporting criteria and identify how likely and how prolonged exposure at each job would be. This would allow the team to track brain cancer rates based on how much exposure the individual had. Many jobs had a high likelihood for exposure; however the jobs with the highest intensity included painters and auto mechanics due to the lead present in paints of the era.

9 year tracking
The cancer rate of the nearly 318,000 were tracked for nine years. It was determined that 119 of the individuals being monitored died of brain cancer. The death rate of those with high job exposure to lead versus those with low exposure was nearly 50% higher. The study also indicated higher brain cancer death rates in less educated and married individuals. The reason for the later links is unknown and is most likely attributed to random variations in the population.

Continuing research
Lead has long been a known environmental hazard; however studies such as this one have solidified the link. It has been suggested that more studies need to be completed to not only further establish the dangers of lead, but also of other environmental factors and their adverse health affects.

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