OBJECTIVES: To investigate risk of lung cancers associated with common established carcinogenic occupational exposures (asbestos, paint dust, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and welding fumes) in a prospective cohort study among the general population, and to estimate the proportion of lung cancer cases attributable to these occupational exposures. METHODS: A prospective cohort study on diet, other lifestyle factors, job history, and cancer risk that started in 1986 in The Netherlands on 58,279 men, aged 55-69 years. Based on information about job history obtained from a self-administered questionnaire, case by case expert assessment was carried out to assign to each study subject a cumulative probability of occupational exposure for each carcinogenic exposure. For analysis, a case-cohort approach was used, in which the person-years at risk were estimated from a randomly selected subcohort (n = 1688). After 4.3 years of follow up, 524 lung cancer cases with complete job history were available. RESULTS: After adjustment for age, each of the other occupational exposures, and for smoking habits and intake of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and retinol, significant associations were found between risk of lung cancer and cumulative probability of occupational exposure to asbestos (relative risk (RR) highest/no exposure = 3.49, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.69 to 7.18, trend P < 0.01 or paint dust (RR highest/no exposure = 2.48, 95% CI 0.88 to 6.97, trend P < 0.01). The population attributable risks (PARs) for the four exposures based on the multivariately adjusted RRs for ever exposed versus never exposed workers were calculated. The PAR of lifetime occupational exposure to asbestos was calculated to be 11.6%. CONCLUSIONS: This prospective cohort study among the general population showed that occupational exposure to asbestos or paint dust is associated with higher RRs for lung cancer. This study shows that after adjustment for smoking and diet about 11.6% of the cases of lung cancer in men is attributable to lifetime occupational exposure to asbestos.
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