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10.12.2018 | Original Article | Ausgabe 4/2019

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health 4/2019

Cancer mortality in Korean workers occupationally exposed to methanol: a cohort study

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health > Ausgabe 4/2019
Young-Sun Min, Hongsuk Choi, Cheol-In Yoo, Yeon-Soon Ahn
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Recently, the international agency for research on cancer recommended that methanol should be recognized as a medium-priority, human cancer risk. Therefore, we performed an epidemiological study to evaluate the relationship between methanol exposure and the cancer mortality of Korean workers occupationally exposed to methanol.


The study cohort was composed of methanol-exposed 25,218 male workers, data on whom were available from the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency; all participants underwent methanol-associated medical check-ups at least once between January 2000 and December 2004. The durations of methanol exposure were categorized as < 10, 10–20, and ≥ 20 years. Workplace methanol exposure levels for each worker were divided into three grades. We compared their standardized cancer mortality rates (SMRs) to those of the general population. Intra-cohort hazard ratios were estimated using a Cox’s proportional hazards model.


We found no positive association between methanol exposure and cancer mortality. In terms of all cancer mortality, methanol-exposed workers exhibited significantly lower SMRs than the general population. In terms of other cancer mortality, no significant difference or trend was evident as a function of duration of methanol exposure.


Although we found no significant correlation between methanol exposure and cancer mortality, we believe the work is meaningful; this is the first, large-scale, human epidemiological study. The carcinogenic potential of methanol remains an open question, and studies with longer-term follow-up periods are needed.

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