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Non-Malignant Respiratory Diseases and Lung Cancer Among Chinese Workers Exposed to Silica

Cocco, Pierluigi MD; Rice, Carol H. PhD; Chen, Jingquiong Q. MD; McCawley, Michael PhD; McLaughlin, Joseph K. PhD; Dosemeci, Mustafa PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2000 - Volume 42 - Issue 6 - p 639-644
Original Articles

The objective of this study was to explore whether a medical history for non-malignant respiratory disease contributes to an increased lung cancer risk among workers exposed to silica. We analyzed data from a nested case-control study in 29 dusty workplaces in China. The study population consisted of 316 lung cancer cases and 1356 controls matched to cases by facility type and decade of birth who were alive at the time of diagnosis of the index case and who were identified in a follow-up study of about 68,000 workers. Age at first exposure and cigarette smoking were accounted for in the analysis. Smoking was the main risk factor for both lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. Lung cancer risk showed a modest association with silicosis and with cumulative silica exposure, which did not vary by history of previous pulmonary tuberculosis. Among subjects without a medical history for chronic bronchitis or asthma, lung cancer risk was associated with silicosis (odds ratio [OR], 1.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1 to 2.2), and it was increased in each quartile of cumulative silica exposure. However, risk was not elevated in the highest quartile (OR, 1.3, 1.6, 1.8, 1.4). Among subjects with a medical history for chronic bronchitis or asthma, lung cancer risk was associated with neither silicosis (subjects with chronic bronchitis: OR, 0.6; subjects with asthma: OR, 0.4) nor with silica exposure. In this study population, we observed a modest association of both silicosis and cumulative exposure to silica with lung cancer among subjects who were not previously diagnosed with chronic bronchitis or asthma, but not among subjects who had a medical history for either disease. Risk of lung cancer associated with silicosis or cumulative exposure to silica did not vary by previous medical history of pulmonary tuberculosis.

From Istituto di Medicina del Lavoro, University of Cagliari, Italy (Dr Cocco); the Department of Environmental Health, University of Cincinnati, Ohio (Dr Rice); the Occupational Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md. (Dr Dosemeci); the Department of Labor Health and Occupational Diseases, Tongji Medical University, Wuhan, China (Dr Chen); the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Morgantown, W.V. (Dr McCawley); and the International Epidemiology Institute, Rockville, Md. (Dr McLaughlin).

Address correspondence to: Mustafa Dosemeci, PhD, Occupational Epidemiology Branch, National Cancer Institute, 6120 Executive Boulevard, EPS Room 8002, Bethesda, MD 20892-7240; e-mail

© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.