Background: Workers in the construction industry carry an increased risk for head and neck cancer due to the high consumption of alcohol and tobacco plus exposure to occupational carcinogenic or co-carcinogenic agents. These latter substances include asbestos, tar products, metal dust, wood dust, cement dust and paints.
Results: The Heidelberg case-control studies showed a statistically increased risk of pharyngeal cancer (RR=2.5 adjusted for tobacco and alcohol) and laryngeal cancer (RR=2.3 adjusted for tobacco and alcohol) in the construction workers (23.3%) when compared to controls (8.2%). A random sample analysis of patients with head and neck cancer referred by the largest health assurance company in Heidelberg (AOK), revealed that 21.2% were employed in the construction industry. Similar results have been obtained in a number of international epidemiological studies.
Conclusions: Our findings show that male construction workers who regularly consume alcohol and tobacco represent an extreme risk group for head and neck cancer. Measures for early detection are important and must be implemented carefully.