Formaldehyde and cancer risk: a quantitative review of cohort studies through 2006

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BackgroundOccupational exposure to formaldehyde has been associated with excess risk of nasopharyngeal and selected other cancers.Patients and methodsWe reviewed and pooled the results of cohort studies published through February 2007.ResultsThere were 5651 deaths from all cancers observed in six cohorts of industry workers and six of professionals, with a pooled relative risk (RR) of 0.95 for industry workers and of 0.87 for professionals. Nine deaths from nasopharyngeal cancer in three cohorts of industry workers yielded a pooled RR of 1.33, which declined to 0.49 after excluding six cases from one US plant. The pooled RR for lung cancer was 1.06 in industry workers and 0.63 in professionals. Corresponding values were 1.09 and 0.96 for oral and pharyngeal, 0.92 and 1.56 for brain, 0.85 and 1.31 for all lymphatic and hematopoietic cancers, and 0.90 and 1.39 for leukemia.ConclusionsComprehensive review of cancer in industry workers and professionals exposed to formaldehyde shows no appreciable excess risk for oral and pharyngeal, sinonasal or lung cancers. A non-significantly increased RR for nasopharyngeal cancer among industry workers is attributable to a cluster of deaths in a single plant. For brain cancer and lymphohematopoietic neoplasms there were modestly elevated risks in professionals, but not industry workers.

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