Occupational exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and respiratory and urinary tract cancers: a quantitative review to 2005

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BackgroundExposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) has been reported in several industries, including those of the aluminum production, coal gasification, coke production, iron and steel foundries, coal tar and related products, carbon black and carbon electrodes production.Patients and methodsThis paper reviews the results from cohort studies conducted on workers exposed to PAHs in these industries, with a focus on cancers of the respiratory and urinary tract.ResultsAn excess risk from lung/respiratory cancers was found in most industries, the pooled relative risk (RR) being 2.58 (95% CI 2.28–2.92) for coal gasification, 1.58 (95% CI 1.47–1.69) for coke production, 1.40 (95% CI 1.31–1.49) for iron and steel foundries, 1.51 (95% CI 1.28–1.78) for roofers and 1.30 (95% CI 1.06–1.59) for carbon black production. The evidence for cancers of the bladder and of the urinary system is less consistent, with a significant increased risk only for workers in aluminum production (pooled RR=1.29, 95% CI 1.12–1.49), coal gasification (pooled RR=2.39, 95% CI 1.36–4.21), and iron and steel foundries (pooled RR=1.29, 95% CI 1.06–1.57).ConclusionsIncreased risks from lung and bladder cancers were found in PAH-related occupations. These were modest in most industries, apart from those for coal gasification, and whether they are due at least partially to some bias or confounding remains open to discussion.

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