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July 18, 2017

White-collar jobs linked to deaths from ALS, Parkinson's disease, CDC finds

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    White-collar workers could have a higher risk of dying from certain neurodegenerative diseases, according to CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Friday.

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    Report details

    For the report, CDC researchers examined the association between typical occupations, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson's disease mortality. The researchers used data from CDC's National Occupational Mortality Surveillance (NOMS)—which includes information on roughly 12.1 million deaths from 30 U.S. states that occurred from:

    • 1985 to 1999;
    • 2003 to 2004; and
    • 2007 to 2011.

    In total, CDC researchers analyzed 12.129 million deaths, including:

    • 158,618 deaths from chronic disease of the endocardium;
    • 115,262 Parkinson's disease deaths; and
    • 26,917 ALS deaths.

    The report included at least six limitations, including:

    • The broad occupation categories used for the analysis;
    • The possibility of misclassified occupations and reasons for death; and
    • The study's focus on mortality rather than disease incidence.


    According to the report, occupations with higher socioeconomic status were associated with elevated rates of ALS and Parkinson's disease mortality.

    The researchers found the strongest links between ALS mortality and careers in:

    • Architecture/engineering;
    • Computers/mathematics;
    • Education/training/library; and
    • Legal.

    The researchers found the strongest links between Parkinson's disease mortality and careers in:

    • Community/social services;
    • Education/training/library; and
    • Legal occupations.

    According to the report, proportionate mortality ratios (PMR) were significantly higher than 1.0 for:

    • 14 occupation categories among ALS decedents;
    • 13 occupation categories among Parkinson's disease decedents; and.
    • Nine occupations among chronic disease of the endocardium decedents.

    The researchers said the association between occupation and endocardium-related deaths was weaker than those observed for ALS and Parkinson's disease.

    The researchers wrote, "If the associations between higher socioeconomic status occupations and ALS and Parkinson's disease are real, then the burdens of ALS and Parkinson's mortality could also increase in the future because the U.S. workforce is increasing in the number and proportion of workers employed in higher [socioeconomic status] occupations."

    The researchers said the associations found in the report are unusual, because previous studies "focused on exposures to toxicants (e.g., pesticides, solvents, lead, welding fume, and electromagnetic fields) that occur more frequently in lower [socioeconomic status] occupations (e.g., farming, construction, production, and military service)" (Fiore, MedPage Today, 7/13). 

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