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Lung cancer risk and talc not containing asbestiform fibres: a review of the epidemiological evidence


A literature search was done and all epidemiological cancer studies mentioning talc as a risk factor were selected. The talc exposed populations were divided into three groups: (1) populations in which no other occupational carcinogen was mentioned (only talc millers satisfied this criterion); (2) populations of talc miners exposed to talc, quartz, and/or radon; and (3) other industrial populations in which talc is associated with quartz, nitrosamines, and asbestos depending on the study. No excess lung cancer mortality was found for the populations of talc millers exposed to high levels of talc but without any other potential carcinogen (SMR = 0.92, 42 cases) while the summary of mortality of talc miners exposed to quartz and/or radon was in excess (fixed effect SMR = 1.20, random effect RR = 1.85, 40 cases). Six studies in other industrial settings were identified. All reported increased lung cancer mortality among talc exposed workers but the talc exposure was confounded with other carcinogens and only one study was able to adjust on them. In conclusion, no increased lung cancer mortality was observed among talc millers despite their high exposure experience. In populations in which talc was associated with other potential carcinogens, some lung cancer excesses were observed.

  • IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer
  • NMRD, non-malignant respiratory diseases
  • talc
  • lung cancer
  • literature review

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