Lung cancer and chronic respiratory disease in the Ontario mining industry

Status: In Progress


This study of lung cancer and chronic respiratory disease in the Ontario mining sector has two research objectives:

  1. Create a research platform by linking the Mining Master File (MMF) cohort with the Ontario Mines Database (OMD) as well as administrative health data on lung cancer and chronic respiratory disease.
  2. Use newly created research platform to estimate the risk of lung cancer and chronic respiratory disease among Ontario miners.


Underground workers in the mining industry are exposed to complex exposure mixtures including silica, radon, diesel engine exhaust (DEE), arsenic, nickel, chromium, and cobalt. Many of these exposures have been associated with lung cancer, chronic respiratory diseases (including pneumoconiosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)) or both. Previous health-related studies have tended to focus on a single mine or type of mining, overlooking the mobility of the workers employed in the mining industry and ignoring the potential impact of mixed exposures occurring either simultaneously or one after the other.

This project will see the joining of existing data sources to construct a research platform for investigating the relationships between mixed occupational exposure in the mining industry and both cancer and chronic respiratory disease. The current study will undertake the first step in constructing this research platform: the combination of the Mining Master File (MMF) and the Ontario Mines Database (OMD), and the subsequent linkage of this cohort file with cancer incidence and mortality data for the province of Ontario.


A retrospective cohort of workers in the MMF will be created; this file includes detailed job histories on 93,000 underground workers who worked in Ontario 1927-1987. The job history data in the MMF cohort will be linked with the Ontario Mines Database, a file created at the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC), and then linked with administrative health data to ascertain lung cancer incidence as well as lung cancer and chronic respiratory disease mortality.


This research will provide important information on the relationship between employment in the Ontario mining industry and both lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. This work will better address the mobility of workers in the mining industry, a weakness of previous studies focusing on single mines or ore types. These results will help to identify workers at increased risk of occupational cancer so that prevention efforts can be targeted where they will have the greatest impact on workers’ health.


In the first year of this project the study team worked to prepare the Mining Master File for data linkage. The linkage and data analysis will occur in the second year.


This study is funded by a grant from the Ontario Ministry of Labour:
Demers PA, Arrandale VH, Lightfoot NE, Genesove LJ. Lung Cancer and Chronic Respiratory Disease in the Ontario Mining Industry. 2015-2017.


Paul A Demers (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Victoria H Arrandale (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)
Nancy E Lightfoot (Laurentian University)
Leon J Genesove (Ontario Ministry of Labour)
Colin Berriault (Occupational Cancer Research Centre)