Background: We conducted a meta-analysis of occupational studies of trichloroethylene-exposed workers to evaluate patterns of associations by study design, exposure assessment methods, and occupational groups.
Methods: Estimates of summary relative risk (RR) were calculated using inverse-variance weighting methods. Cohort studies were classified as group I or group II, depending on quality of the study design and exposure assessment procedures. We conducted sensitivity analyses to examine sources of heterogeneity.
Results: Across all studies meeting our inclusion criteria (n = 23), the summary RR was 1.42 (95% confidence interval = 1.17–1.77), with heterogeneity present (test for heterogeneity: P = 0.001). After removal of 3 outlier studies, the summary RR for the remaining studies was 1.24 (1.06–1.45 (test for heterogeneity: P = 0.616)). The summary RR for studies of workers who were identified as more likely exposed to trichloroethylene (group I studies) was 1.34 (1.06–1.68). With outlier studies removed, the group II summary RR estimates for the cohort studies was 0.88 (0.58–1.33) and for the case-control studies was 1.33 (1.02–1.73). The summary RR for studies that used biomarkers to classify exposure (n = 3) was 1.02 (0.59–1.77) and for studies of aerospace/aircraft workers (n = 7) was 1.14 (0.84–1.57).
Conclusions: Positive associations were observed across various study groups. However, considerations of unmeasured potential confounding, lack of quantitative exposure assessment and lack of exposure-response patterns limit epidemiologic insight into the role of trichloroethylene exposure and its potential causal association with kidney cancer.