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Former poison gas workers and cancer: incidence and inhibition of tumor formation by treatment with biological response modifier N-CWS.

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  • Research Article
  • Biology


Mustard gas is known to have mutagenic and carcinogenic effects on animal and human cells. In this report, 1,632 male Japanese who worked in poison gas factories at some time between the years 1927 and 1945 were studied to determine comparative risk for development of cancer, the reference population being data on Japanese males overall. The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for lung cancer in workers directly and indirectly involved in the production of mustard gas was significantly elevated. In addition, SMR for lung cancer in worker who had worked for more than 5 years was also significantly elevated. Thus, poison gas workers who had engaged in the production of mustard gas or related work for more than 5 years are a high-risk group for lung cancer. Under the cancer preventive program, Nocardia rubra cell-wall skeleton (N-CWS) was administered to 146 former poison gas workers. During a 4.5 year observation period, development of cancers was found in 7 treated workers and 17 untreated controls. After elimination of the influence of smoking level, a significant suppression of development of cancers was noted in the N-CWS-treated workers as compared to the untreated controls. Although the molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis in former poison gas workers remains unclear, our study proposes the possible effect of biological response modifiers in the prevention of cancer development in high-risk human subjects.

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