Article Text

Download PDFPDF

A case–control study of occupational contact levels in the childhood leukaemia cluster at Seascale, Cumbria, UK
  1. Leo J Kinlen
  1. The Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Leo J Kinlen; leo.kinlen{at}


Objectives To investigate adult occupational contact levels and risk of childhood leukaemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (LNHL) in Seascale, an association found in other situations of rural population mixing (PM).

Design Matched case–control study.

Setting Seascale, Cumbria, UK.

Participants For each case of LNHL recorded in patients under age 25 years during 1950–2006, up to 20 matched controls were chosen and parental occupational details obtained; an exception was a single working young adult, whose own occupation (and that of controls) was used.

Primary outcome measures Contact levels of occupations were categorised as: low/medium (reference group), high or very high contact levels, as in previous studies, with provision for certain unusual occupations. In particular, specialist policemen responsible for security and access at the nearby Sellafield nuclear complex were allocated to the highest contact category, and those Sellafield employees who worked in controlled areas to the middle (high) category. Since of possible bias, unusual contact aspects noted in the main research and development (R&D) building were reserved for a supplementary analysis. ORs were calculated for the occupational contact levels.

Results Compared to the reference group, the social class adjusted ORs for the high and very high contact categories were 8.18 (95% CI 0.95 to 70.33) and 14.90 (1.20 to 184.90), respectively, with a significant trend across the categories (p value=0.024). In the supplementary analysis with R&D workers moved to the very high contact category, the OR for the latter became 29.68 (2.12 to 415.79), and the p value for trend, 0.011.

Conclusions The Seascale LNHL excess was most marked among those young people linked with high occupational contact levels; it is therefore not an exception to the pattern of family infection shown by other PM-related excesses. The findings have implications for the choice of controls in certain types of virus study.


This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.