OBJECTIVES: To investigate the influence of occupation on the rising incidence of lung and bladder cancer among men in a Norwegian municipality where an iron and steel plant constituted the key industry between 1955 and 1989. METHODS: Based on the lung cancer cases reported to the Cancer Registry of Norway from 1980 to 1992 a population based case-control study was performed, including 86 cases and 196 controls. Information on occupations and smoking habits was collected through interviews and from the personnel files from the industrial plants. A case-control study on bladder cancer with 52 cases and 156 controls was carried out to cast light on the role of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). RESULTS: An odds ratio (OR) for lung cancer of 2.9 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.2 to 6.7) was associated with exposure to PAHs. Based on data from personnel files, increased risk of lung cancer (OR 2.8 95% CI 1.1 to 7.0) was associated with work experience in the pig iron department at the ironworks. A non-significant OR of 1.8 was associated with exposure to asbestos. Bladder cancer was not associated with exposure to PAHs at the iron, steel, and coke plant, or with experience from any of the production departments at the plant. CONCLUSIONS: One fifth of the lung cancer cases were attributed to exposure to PAHs or asbestos. More than 80% of the cases of lung cancer were attributed to tobacco smoking. The cancer risk in the pig iron department may be due to a combination of exposures to PAH, asbestos, or dust of mixed composition.
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