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Organic dusts and respiratory cancer: a complex issue
  1. L Rushton
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr L Rushton
 Imperial College London, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Room UG40, St Mary’s Campus, Norfolk Place, London W1 2PG, UK; l.rushton{at}

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Commentary on the paper by Laakkonen et al (see page726)

Organic dusts are complex mixtures derived from vegetable and animal sources, often contaminated with endotoxins. Exposures to these dusts have been shown to affect development of respiratory diseases such as asthma, allergic alveolitis, byssinosis, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema.1 Organic dusts occur in a range of occupations including agricultural work; the textile industry, especially cotton processing; flour milling and bakeries; and the wood industry, particularly sawmills, carpentry, and wood processing. Many of these occupations, particularly agricultural work, also have the potential for concurrent exposure to other substances that affect respiratory health, for example metals, gases, fibres, and chemicals.2

In contrast to non-malignant disease, the relationship between organic dusts and cancer appears to be more complex. In a Finnish record linkage study, Laakonen et al3 identify elevated risks for nasal and lung cancer associated with wood dust and for laryngeal cancer associated with grain milling. They use the Finnish national job-exposure matrix (FINJEM) and occupations …

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  • Competing interests: none declared

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