The adverse health effects of radon on uranium miners, especially on their lungs, are well documented, but few studies have considered the effects of other radiation exposures. This study examined the mortality risks associated with exposure to radon, external γ rays and long-lived radionuclides (LLR) in the French “post-55” sub-cohort, which includes uranium miners first employed between 1956 and 1990 for whom all three types of exposure were assessed individually. Exposure–risk relationships were estimated with linear excess relative risk models and a 5-year lag time. The post-55 sub-cohort includes 3377 miners, contributing 89,405 person-years, followed up through the end of 1999 with a mean follow-up of 26.5 years. Mean cumulative exposure was 17.8 WLM for radon, 54.7 mSv for γ rays, and 1,632 Bq.m−3.h for LLR. Among the 611 deaths observed, 66 were due to lung cancer. Annual individual exposures were significantly correlated. Increased mortality was observed for lung cancer (SMR = 1.30; 95% CI: 1.01, 1.65) and for brain and central nervous system (CNS) cancer (SMR = 2.00; 95% CI: 1.09, 3.35). Cumulative exposure to radon, γ rays and LLR was associated only with a significant risk of lung cancer. These new results could suggest an association between lung cancer and exposure to γ rays and LLR. They must nonetheless be interpreted with caution because of the correlation between the types of exposure. The calculation of organ doses received by each of these exposures would reduce the collinearity.
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Vol. 176 • No. 6