Arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and nickel are classified by IARC as human carcinogens (Group 1), while lead as a probable/possible carcinogen to humans (Group 2A). We explored associations between occupational exposure to metals and breast, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), colorectal, prostate, and stomach cancer in the MCC-Spain population based case-control study.
Methods The analyses were based on 3047 controls, and 1499 breast, 1539 colorectal, 332 CLL, 1070 prostate, and 382 stomach cancer cases. Occupational exposure to arsenic, cadmium, chromium, iron, lead and nickel was assessed using the MatEmEsp job-exposure matrix. Logistic regression models accounting for education, sex, geographic area, number of jobs, body mass index (colorectal, prostate), smoking (stomach, colorectal), menopause (breast) and number of alive children (breast) were fit to estimate Odds Ratios (OR) and 95% Confidence Intervals (95% CI).
Results Occupational exposure to each of the studied metals was associated with higher prostate cancer risk. Associations were specially observed for a duration higher than 10 years, and among those working in occupations with higher probability*intensity of the exposure. Working in occupations entailing higher probability*intensity of the exposure to cadmium, chromium and nickel was associated with breast cancer. Arsenic exposure for more than 10 years showed a non-significant higher risk of colorectal cancer. None of the metals assessed showed any suggestion of an association with CLL, nor stomach cancer.
Our results support the association between occupational exposure to carcinogenic metals and risk of hormone related tumours like breast and prostate cancer.
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