Uranium miners of the former Wismut company in Germany form the largest cohort of workers exposed to (222)Rn and dust in the world. The German Uranium Miner Study, Research Group Pathology, is evaluating the central pathology archive of the Wismut company. The main tasks of our study are pathological-anatomical and molecular genetic investigations of 28,975 autopsy cases and the evaluation of mining pollutants in the lungs by neutron activation analysis. As part of an observer agreement study, lung tumors are classified according to the WHO/IASLC classification and nontumorigenic lung disorders are registered. Lung tumors were analyzed for the presence of a proposed radon-specific mutation in the TP53 gene (formerly known as p53). Interim results are: (a) In the years 1957 to 1965, a high rate (69%) of small cell carcinomas was found which had declined to 34% by 1990. (b) The percentage of the deceased who suffered from silicosis is not higher in the group of lung tumors than in other tumor groups or the nontumor group. (c) The hypothesis of a radon-characteristic hotspot mutation in the TP53 tumor suppressor gene is not supported by our investigations. (d) Neutron activation analysis demonstrates that uranium, arsenic, chromium, cobalt and antimony can be found in tissue samples from the miners even when they had stopped working more than 20 years before death.
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