Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health 2008;34(6):444-450    pdf

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.1296 | Issue date: 00 Dec 2008

Exposure to iron and welding fumes and the risk of lung cancer

by Siew SS, Kauppinen T, Kyyrönen P, Heikkilä P, Pukkala E

Objectives Exposure to iron fumes and dust and welding fumes is widespread and may increase the risk of lung cancer. The aim of this study was to identify associations between exposure to iron and welding fumes and the incidence of lung cancer among Finnish men.

Methods The cohort of all economically active Finnish men, born in 1906–1945, who participated in the national census in 1970 was followed through the Finnish Cancer Registry for lung cancer cases (N=30 137) during 1971–1995. Their census occupations in 1970 were converted to estimates of cumulative exposure to iron and welding fumes with the Finnish job-exposure matrix on the basis of likelihood, average level, and estimated duration of exposure. Relative risk estimates for categorized cumulative exposure were defined by a Poisson regression, adjusted for smoking, socioeconomic status, and exposure to asbestos and silica dust.

Results The relative risks for lung cancer increased as the cumulative exposure to iron and welding fumes increased. Relative risks in the highest exposure category was 1.35 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.05–1.73] for iron and 1.15 (95% CI 0.90–1.46) for welding fumes. The respective relative risks estimated for squamous-cell carcinoma of the lungs were 1.94 (95% CI 1.35–2.78) and 1.55 (95% CI 1.08–2.24). There was no excess risk of small-cell carcinoma in any exposure category.

Conclusions Occupational exposure to iron and welding fumes was associated with an increase in lung cancer risk, mainly that of squamous-cell carcinoma. The simultaneous exposure to both of these agents and other potential work-related carcinogens complicates the interpretation of the independent roles of the risk factors.

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