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Occupational exposure to diesel engine emissions and risk of lung cancer: evidence from two case–control studies in Montreal, Canada


Objective To examine the risk of lung cancer among men associated with exposure to diesel engine emissions incurred in a wide range of occupations and industries.

Methodology 2 population-based lung cancer case–control studies were conducted in Montreal. Study I (1979–1986) comprised 857 cases and 533 population controls; study II (1996–2001) comprised 736 cases and 894 population controls. A detailed job history was obtained, from which we inferred lifetime occupational exposure to 294 agents, including diesel engine emissions. ORs were estimated for each study and in the pooled data set, adjusting for socio-demographic factors, smoking history and selected occupational carcinogens. While it proved impossible to retrospectively estimate absolute exposure concentrations, there were estimates and analyses by relative measures of cumulative exposure.

Results Increased risks of lung cancer were found in both studies. The pooled analysis showed an OR of lung cancer associated with substantial exposure to diesel exhaust of 1.80 (95% CI 1.3 to 2.6). The risk associated with substantial exposure was higher for squamous cell carcinomas (OR 2.09; 95% CI 1.3 to 3.2) than other histological types. Joint effects between diesel exhaust exposure and tobacco smoking are compatible with a multiplicative synergistic effect.

Discussion Our findings provide further evidence supporting a causal link between diesel engine emissions and risk of lung cancer. The risk is stronger for the development of squamous cell carcinomas than for small cell tumours or adenocarcinomas.

  • Lung cancer
  • occupational exposure
  • diesel exhaust
  • case–control
  • general expertise
  • epidemiology
  • organ system
  • disease
  • disease type
  • cancer
  • statistics
  • public health
  • methodology
  • specialty
  • risk assessment

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