Occupational risks for lung cancer among nonsmokers

Epidemiology. 2000 Sep;11(5):532-8. doi: 10.1097/00001648-200009000-00008.


We conducted a case-control study in 12 European study centers to evaluate the role of occupational risk factors among nonsmokers. We obtained detailed occupational histories from 650 nonsmoking cases (509 females/141 males) and 1,542 nonsmoking controls (1,011 females/531 males). On the basis of an a priori definition of occupations and industries that are known (list A) or suspected (list B) to be associated with lung carcinogenesis, we calculated odds ratios (ORs) for these occupations, using unconditional logistic regression models and adjusting for sex, age, and center effects. Among nonsmoking men, an excess relative risk was observed among those who had worked in list-A occupations [OR = 1.52; 95% confidence interval (C) = 0.78-2.97] but not in list-B occupations (OR = 1.05; 95%), CI = 0.60-1.83). Among nonsmoking women, there was an elevation of risk for list-A occupations (OR = 1.50; 95% CI = 0.49-4.53), although this estimate was imprecise, given that less than 1% of cases and controls were exposed. Exposure to list-B occupations was associated with an increase in relative risk (OR = 1.69; 95% CI = 1.09-2.63) in females, but not in males. Women who had been laundry workers or dry cleaners had an OR of 1.83 (95% CI = 0.98-3.40). Our findings confirm that certain occupational exposures are associated with an increased risk for lung cancer among both female and male nonsmokers; however, knowledge on occupational lung carcinogens is biased toward agents to which mainly men are exposed.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupations
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology