A prospective study of occupation and prostate cancer risk

M.P.A. Zeegers*, I.H.M. Friesema, R.A. Goldbohm, P.A. van den Brandt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

412 Downloads (Pure)


A wide variety of occupations has been associated with prostate cancer in previous retrospective studies. Most attention has been paid to farming, metal working, and the rubber industry. Today, these results cannot be affirmed with confidence, because many associations could be influenced by recall bias, have been inconsistent, or have not been confirmed satisfactory in subsequent studies. This study was conducted to investigate and confirm these important associations in a large prospective cohort study. The authors conducted a prospective cohort study among 58,279 men. In September 1986, the cohort members (55-69 years) completed a self-administered questionnaire on potential cancer risk factors, including job history. Related job codes were clustered in professional groups. These predefined clusters were investigated in 3 time windows: 1) profession ever performed, 2) longest profession ever held, and 3) last profession held at baseline. Follow up for incident prostate cancer was established by linkage to cancer registries until December 1993. A case-cohort approach was used based on 830 cases and 1525 subcohort members. To minimize false-positive results, 99% confidence intervals (99% CI) were calculated. Although moderately decreased prostate cancer risks were found for electricians, farmers, firefighters, woodworkers, textile workers, butchers, salesmen, teachers, and clerical workers, none of the relative risks (RR) were found to be statistically significant. For road transporters, metal workers, and managers, no association with prostate cancer risk was found. Although the RR for railway workers, mechanics, welders, chemists, painters, and cooks was moderately increased, these estimates were not statistically significant. For men who reported to have ever worked in the rubber industry, we found a substantially increased prostate cancer risk, but not statistically significant (RR, 4.18; 99% CI = 0.22-80.45). For policemen, we found a substantial and marginally statistically significant increased prostate cancer risk, especially for those who reported working as a policeman for most of their occupational life (RR, 3.91; 99% CI = 1.14-13.42) or as the last profession held at baseline (RR, 4.00; 99% CI = 1.19-13.37). Most of the previously investigated associations between occupation and prostate cancer risk could not be confirmed with confidence in this prospective study. The lack of statistical significance for rubber workers could be caused by the scarcity of rubber workers in this cohort and subsequent lack of power. The results for policemen were substantial and statistically significant, although a conservative value for significance level was used.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-279
JournalJournal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004

Cite this