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Nested case-control study of lung cancer in four Chinese tin mines
  1. W Chen,
  2. J Chen
  1. Department of Labor Health and Occupational Diseases, Tongji Medical College, 13 Hang Kong Lu, Wuhan, Hubei, People's Republic of China
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr W Chen, Institute of Hygiene and Occupational Medicine, Medical School, University of Essen, Hufeland Strasse 55, D-45122 Essen, Germany;


Objectives: To evaluate the relation between occupational dust exposure and lung cancer in tin mines. This is an update of a previous study of miners with high exposure to dust at four tin mines in southern China.

Methods: A nested case-control study of 130 male lung cancer cases and 627 controls was initiated from a cohort study of 7855 subjects employed at least 1 year between 1972 and 1974 in four tin mines in China. Three of the tin mines were in Dachang and one was in Limu. Cumulative total exposure to dust and cumulative exposure to arsenic were calculated for each person based on industrial hygiene records. Measurements of arsenic, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and radon in the work sites were also evaluated. Odds ratios (ORs), standard statistic analysis and logistic regression were used for analyses.

Results: Increased risk of lung cancer was related to cumulative exposure to dust, duration of exposure, cumulative exposure to arsenic, and tobacco smoking. The risk ratios for low, medium, and high cumulative exposure to dust were 2.1 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.1 to 3.8), 1.7 (95% CI 0.9 to 3.1), and 2.8 (95% CI 1.6 to 5.0) respectively after adjustment for smoking. The risk for lung cancer among workers with short, medium, and long exposure to dust were 1.9 (95% CI 1.0 to 3.5), 2.3 (95% CI 1.3 to 4.1), and 2.3 (95% CI 1.2 to 4.2) respectively after adjusting for smoking. Several sets of risk factors for lung cancer were compared, and the best predictive model included tobacco smoking (OR=1.6, 95% CI 1.1 to 2.4) and cumulative exposure to arsenic (ORs for different groups from low to high exposure were 2.1 (95% CI 1.1 to 3.9); 2.1 (95% CI 1.1 to 3.9); 1.8 (95% CI 1.0 to 3.6); and 3.6 (95% CI 1.8 5 to 7.3)). No excess of lung cancer was found among silicotic subjects in the Limu tin mine although there was a high prevelance of silicosis. Exposures to radon were low in the four tin mines and no carcinogenic PAHs were detected.

Conclusions: These findings provide little support for the hypothesis that respirable crystalline silica induces lung cancer. Ore dust in work sites acts as a carrier, the exposure to arsenic and tobacco smoking play a more important part in carcinogenesis of lung cancer in tin miners. Silicosis seems not to be related to the increased risk of lung cancer.

  • lung cancer
  • dust exposure
  • arsenic
  • PAHs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • SMR, standardised mortality ratio
  • OR, odds ratio
  • CTD, cumulative total dust

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