OBJECTIVES: This community based case-referent study was initiated to investigate aetiological factors for squamous cell carcinoma of the upper gastrointestinal tract. METHODS: The study was based on all Swedish men aged 40-79 living in two regions of Sweden during 1988-90. Within that base, efforts were made to identify all incident cases of squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, oropharynx and hypopharynx, larynx, and oesophagus. Referents were selected as a stratified (age, region) random sample of the base. The response was 90% among cases and 85% among referents. There were 545 cases and 641 referents in the final study group. The study subjects were interviewed about several lifestyle factors and a life history of occupations and work tasks. The exposure to 17 specific agents were coded by an occupational hygienist. The relative risk (RR) of cancer was calculated by logistic regression, standardising for age, geographical region, and alcohol and tobacco consumption. RESULTS: Exposure to asbestos was associated with an increased risk of laryngeal cancer, and a dose-response relation was present. The RR was 1.8 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.1 to 3.0) in the highest exposure group. More than eight years of exposure to welding fumes was associated with an increased risk of pharyngeal cancer (RR 2.3 (1.1 to 4.7)), and laryngeal cancer (RR 2.0 (1.0 to 3.7)). There were indications of a dose-response for duration of exposure. Associations were also found for high exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and oesophageal cancer, RR 1.9 (1.1 to 3.2). Exposure to wood dust was associated with a decreased risk of cancer at the studied sites. CONCLUSIONS: Some of the present findings confirm known or suspected associations--such as asbestos and laryngeal cancer. The study indicates that welding may cause an increased risk of pharyngeal as well as laryngeal cancer. The findings corroborate an association between exposure to PAHs and oesophageal cancer.
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