OBJECTIVES: To investigate the relation between lung cancer and exposure to occupational carcinogens in a highly industrialised region in western Europe. METHODS: In a case-control study 478 cases and 536 controls, recruited from 10 hospitals in the Antwerp region, were interviewed. Cases were male patients with histologically confirmed lung cancer; controls were male patients without cancer or primary lung diseases. Data were collected by questionnaires to obtain information on occupations, exposures, and smoking history. Job titles were coded with the Office of Populations, Censuses and Surveys industrial classification. Exposure was assessed by self report and by job-task exposure matrix. Exposure odds ratios were calculated with logistic regression analysis adjusted for age, smoking history, and marital and socio-economic status. RESULTS: A job history in the categories manufacturing of transport equipment other than automobiles (for example, shipyard workers), transport support services (for example, dockers), and manufacturing of metal goods (for example, welders) was significantly associated with lung cancer (odds ratios (ORs) 2.3, 1.6, and 1.6 respectively). These associations were independent of smoking, education, civil, and economic status. Self reported exposure to potential carcinogens did not show significant associations with lung cancer, probably due to nondifferential misclassification. When assessed by job-task exposure matrix, exposure to molybdenum, mineral oils, and chromium were significantly associated with lung cancer. A strong association existed between smoking and lung cancer: OR of ex-smokers 4.2, OR of current smokers 14.5 v non-smokers. However, smoking did not confound the relation between occupational exposure and lung cancer. CONCLUSIONS: The study has shown a significant excess risk of lung cancer among workers in manufacturing of metal goods, manufacturing of transport equipment (other than automobiles), and transport support services. Assessment of exposure to specific carcinogens resulted in significant associations of chromium, mineral oils, and molybdenum with lung cancer. This study is, to our knowledge, the first study reporting a significant association between occupational exposure to molybdenum and lung cancer.
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