INTRODUCTION: A Danish cohort from 1987 consisting of 226 stainless steel welders and reference persons is part of the European Study Group on Cytogenetic Biomarkers and Health (ESCH). In ESCH increased cancer morbidity and mortality was significantly associated with high levels of chromosomal aberrations, measured in blood samples several years prior to cancer registration. The positive association was found in two cohorts from the Nordic countries and from Italy. MATERIAL AND METHODS: ESCH followed all registered cancer cases and control persons by questionnaires and interviews to obtain information about exposures in the period from the time of blood sampling for chromosomal aberration analysis to the time of cancer diagnosis. In Denmark the total cohort was included in the inquiry and the ESCH questions were supplemented with questions from the Danish National Work Environment Cohort Study 1990-95. RESULTS: Responses from one hundred and forty-four persons showed that seventy-four were employed at the same workplace place as in 1987. Differences in occupational exposures, such as more noise, heat and insufficient lighting and no differences in the self-rated health were found in comparison with the Danish National Work Environment Cohort Study as such and with the sample of metal workers. Only very few of the study persons knew the threshold limit value of welding fumes but a majority found that the working environment had improved during the past ten years. DISCUSSION: This study confirms hazardous exposures in stainless steel welding. The threshold limit value, however, has been lowered since 1987 suggesting there is less cancer risk today from stainless steel welding.
Keywords: Air Pollutants, Occupational; Chromium; Chromosome Aberrations; Cohort Studies; Denmark; Follow-Up Studies; Humans; Informed Consent; Male; Neoplasms; Nickel; Occupational Exposure; Questionnaires; Registries; Stainless Steel; Welding