Lung cancer risk in iron and steel foundry workers: a nested case control study in Asturias, Spain

Am J Ind Med. 2000 Dec;38(6):644-50. doi: 10.1002/1097-0274(200012)38:6<644::aid-ajim5>;2-m.


Background: Workers of iron and steel foundries have a high lung cancer risk but the findings on specific processes associated with this risk are inconsistent. We examined the risk of lung cancer among workers in the main industrial processes of a large iron and steel foundry in Asturias, Spain.

Methods: We conducted a nested case-control study comprised of 144 male lung cancer cases and 558 controls, selected from a study base of about 24,400 workers employed in the industry between 1952 and 1995. Cases were identified through linkage of industry records with those of two cancer registries. Controls were selected through industry records using incidence density sampling, were matched to cases by age and date of birth and had to be alive and without lung cancer at the time of selection. Smoking history was obtained through company medical records. Unconditional logistic regression was applied and all ORs were adjusted for age and tobacco consumption.

Results: Workers were, on an average, heavy smokers and a very strong relation was observed for smoking (OR for "ever smoker" = 32.4). Workers having ever been employed in the blast furnace had an excess lung cancer risk (OR = 2.55, 95% CI 1.25-5.21) compared to a reference group of workers not employed in metal producing departments. A similar excess was observed for workers having as their longest held job employment in the blast furnace. A two-fold risk was also observed for workers in the main foundry. For subgroups of workers, tobacco smoking appeared to be an important positive or negative confounder.

Conclusions: In this large Spanish foundry, a high risk was observed for workers employed in departments with high exposure to crystalline silica, PAHs, and various other carcinogenic chemicals. Although comparisons were made between workers of the same industry, smoking habits differed and adjustment by smoking modified considerably the risk estimates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Metallurgy*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Time Factors