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Occupational exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and lung cancer risk: a multicenter study in Europe
  1. Ann C Olsson1,2,
  2. Joelle Fevotte3,
  3. Tony Fletcher4,
  4. Adrian Cassidy5,
  5. Andrea 't Mannetje6,
  6. David Zaridze7,
  7. Neonila Szeszenia-Dabrowska8,
  8. Peter Rudnai9,
  9. Jolanta Lissowska10,
  10. Eleonora Fabianova11,
  11. Dana Mates12,
  12. Vladimir Bencko13,
  13. Lenka Foretova14,
  14. Vladimir Janout15,
  15. Paul Brennan1,
  16. Paolo Boffetta1
  1. 1International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France
  2. 2Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3UMRESTTE (DST/InVS, UCB Lyon1, Inrets), St Maurice, France
  4. 4Public and Environmental Health Research Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  5. 5Roy Castle Lung Cancer Research Programme, Cancer Research Centre, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  6. 6Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
  7. 7Institute of Carcinogenesis, Cancer Research Center, Moscow, Russia
  8. 8Department of Epidemiology, Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Lodz, Poland
  9. 9National Institute of Environmental Health, Budapest, Hungary
  10. 10Cancer Center and Maria Sklodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology, Warsaw, Poland
  11. 11Department of Occupational Health, Specialized State Health Institute, Banska Bystrica, Slovakia
  12. 12Institute of Hygiene, Public Health, Health Services and Management, Bucharest, Romania
  13. 13Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Charles University, First Faculty of Medicine, Prague, Czech Republic
  14. 14Department of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Masaryk Memorial Cancer Institute, Brno, Czech Republic
  15. 15Department of Preventive Medicine, Palacky University Faculty of Medicine, Olomouc, Czech Republic
  1. Correspondence to Paolo Boffetta, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 150 cours Albert Thomas, 69008 Lyon, France; boffetta{at}


Background Lung cancer incidence in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) is among the highest in the world, and the role of occupational exposures has not been adequately studied in these countries.

Objectives To investigate the contribution of occupational exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) to lung cancer in CEE.

Methods A case–control study was conducted in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia and Slovakia, as well as the United Kingdom (UK) between 1998 and 2002. Occupational and socio-demographic information was collected through interviews from 2861 newly diagnosed lung cancer cases and 2936 population or hospital controls. Industrial hygiene experts in each country evaluated exposure to 70 occupational agents, whereof 15 mixtures containing PAH. ORs of lung cancer were calculated after adjusting for other occupational exposures and tobacco smoking.

Results The OR for ever exposure to PAH in the CEE countries was 0.93 (95% CI 0.77 to 1.14). The ORs for the highest category of cumulative exposure, duration of exposure and intensity of exposure were 1.13 (95% CI 0.80 to 1.58), 1.02 (95% CI 0.66 to 1.57) and 1.11 (95% CI 0.60 to 2.05), respectively. The OR for ever PAH exposure in the UK was 1.97 (95% CI 1.16 to 3.35).

Conclusion Occupational PAH exposure does not appear to substantially contribute to the burden of lung cancer in CEE. The apparently stronger effect observed in the UK may be due to high exposure levels and a joint effect with asbestos.

  • Lung neoplasms
  • polycyclic hydrocarbons
  • aromatic
  • occupational exposure
  • Europe
  • case-control studies
  • epidemiology, cancer

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  • Funding This work was supported by a grant from the European Commission's INCO-COPERNICUS program (contract no. IC15-CT96-0313). In Warsaw, the study was supported by a grant from the Polish State Committee for Scientific Research, grant no. SPUB-M-COPERNICUS/P-05/DZ-30/99/2000. In Liverpool, the work was funded by the Roy Castle Foundation as part of the Liverpool Lung Project.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approvals were obtained from the relevant ethics review committees in each country, and subsequently by the IARC ethical review committee on 19 March 1999.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.