17-year cancer study offers good news for female textile workers in Shanghai

Two reports examining data from 267,400 female textile workers over the course of 17-years offer positive news regarding occupational cancer risk.

The first study in the research series, led by University of Washington in Seattle, looked at stomach and esophageal cancer risk associated with exposure to synthetic fiber dust and endotoxins found in textile factories.

Using a control group and tracking the workers from 1989 to 2006, they found their was a small increase in the cases of stomach cancer among those exposed to synthetic fibers.

Similarly, there was increased risk in stomach cancer for those exposed to endotoxins, but again the correlation was very close to zero, the study, Occupational exposures and risk of stomach and esophageal cancers: Update of a cohort of female textile workers in Shanghai, China, found.

“Our findings demonstrate that long duration of synthetic fiber dust exposure can increase stomach cancer risk in women, but provide limited support for associations with other textile industry exposures,” it said.

Using the same data, the researchers published a second study to confirm or disprove the theory that working night shifts can increase lung cancer risk.

The association between night shifts and cancer was first made by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2007 when they published a theory that speculated working in shifts that disrupt natural sleep rhythms can act as a carcinogen in humans due to altered melatonin levels.

But the University of Washington’s research, Night shift work and lung cancer risk among female textile workers in Shanghai, China, found quite the opposite.

Even given 10-year and 20-year lag times, the statistics from both the test group and the control group were almost identical, with a slightly lower lung cancer rate among women working the night shift.

“Contrary to the initial hypothesis, rotating nighttime shift work appears to be associated with a relatively reduced lung cancer risk although the magnitude of the effect was modest and not statistically significant,” the study said.

The first study was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine on Jan 21st and the second was published in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene on January 23rd.