Objectives To examine the associations between head and neck cancer risk and occupational exposure to petroleum-based and oxygenated solvents.
Methods ICARE is a population based case-control study conducted in France. Complete occupational history, lifetime tobacco and alcohol consumptions were collected. Analyses were restricted to men and included 1857 cases of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas and 2780 controls. We used job-exposure matrices to assess exposure to 5 petroleum solvents (benzene; gasoline; white-spirits; gasoil, fuels and kerosene; special petroleum products) and 5 oxygenated solvents (alcohols; ketones and esters; ethylene glycol; diethyl ether; tetrahydrofuran). Odds ratios (ORs) adjusted for tobacco smoking, alcohol drinking and other potential confounders and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated with logistic models.
Results None of the solvents under study showed association and/or dose-response relationships with head and neck cancer overall. In the analysis by cancer site, high cumulative levels of white spirits exposure were associated with a non-significantly elevated risk of oropharyngeal (OR: 1.19, CI: 0.74–1.92) and hypopharyngeal cancer (OR: 1.51, CI: 0.91–2.51). In addition, men exposed to both benzene and white-spirits had a significantly increased risk of head and neck cancer (OR: 1.54, CI: 1.00–2.36), and particularly of oropharyngeal cancer (OR: 2.10, CI: 1.23–3.60). No other association was found between exposure to other solvents and any of the cancer sites.
Conclusion This study provides limited evidence for an association between exposure to white-spirits and pharyngeal cancer. For the other petroleum-based solvents or for oxygenated solvents, our findings are compatible with an absence of risk.
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