Reduced mortality rates in a cohort of long-term underground iron-ore miners


  • Disclosure Statement: The authors report no conflicts of interests.

Correspondence to: Ove Bjoör, BSc, Department of Radiation Sciences (Oncology), Umeå University, SE-901 85 Umeå, Sweden. E-mail:



Historically, working in iron-ore mines has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer and silicosis. However, studies on other causes of mortality are inconsistent and in the case of cancer incidence, sparse. The aim of this study was to examine the association between iron-ore mining, mortality and cancer incidence.


A 54-year cohort study on iron-ore miners from mines in northern Sweden was carried out comprising 13,000 workers. Standardized rate ratios were calculated comparing the disease frequency, mortality, and cancer incidence with that of the general population of northern Sweden. Poisson regression was used to evaluate the association between the durations of employment and underground work, and outcome.


Underground mining was associated with a significant decrease in adjusted mortality rate ratios for cerebrovascular and digestive system diseases, and stroke. For several outcomes, elevated standardized rate ratios were observed among blue-collar workers relative to the reference population. However, only the incidence of lung cancer increased with employment time underground (P < 0.001).


Long-term iron-ore mining underground was associated with lower rates regarding several health outcomes. This is possibly explained by factors related to actual job activities, environmental exposure, or the selection of healthier workers for long-term underground employment. Am. J. Ind. Med. 56:531–540, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.