Torsten Skov, Birgit Maarup, Jorn Olsen, Mikael Rorth, Hanna Winthereik, Elsebeth Lynge
During the past decades conclusive evidence has accumulated that alkylating antineoplastic drugs (ADs) can cause cancer, most notably acute non-lymphocytic leukaemia, and that most ADs are reprotoxic. Studies on health workers handling ADs have shown significantly increased risks for miscarriages (two studies) and malformations (two studies). The present study monitored the risk for cancer and adverse reproductive outcome among Danish nurses handling ADs. No increased risks were found for miscarriages, malformations, low birth weight, or preterm birth among the offspring of nurses handling ADs during pregnancy.
The sex ratio was normal. The relative risk (RR) for leukaemia was significantly increased (10-65) but based on only two cases, one of acute myeloblastic and one of chronic myeloid leukaemia. From the available exposure data occupational exposures to ADs were apparently higher in the studies that have reported increased risks for miscarriages and malformations than in the present one.
Regarding reproductive outcome the study gives some confidence that the safety measures which were implemented in the oncology departments around 1980 can protect the health personnel against adverse effects of ADs on reproduction. As the study is as yet the only negative one in a well protected setting, it should be followed up by other studies of well protected health personnel handling ADs. The findings concerning the leukaemia risk, although based on small numbers, encourage larger studies.
Read the full study here.
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