Nasopharyngeal carcinoma in Malaysian Chinese: occupational exposures to particles, formaldehyde and heat

Int J Epidemiol. 2000 Dec;29(6):991-8. doi: 10.1093/ije/29.6.991.


Background: During 1990-1992, 282 Chinese residents of Selangor and the Federal Territory, Malaysia with histologically confirmed nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) were interviewed about occupational history, diet, alcohol consumption, and tobacco use, as were an equal number of Malaysian Chinese population controls, pair-matched to cases by age and sex.

Methods: Exposures to 20 kinds of workplace substances, solar and industrial heat, and cigarette smoke, were analysed by univariate and multivariate methods.

Results: Nasopharyngeal carcinoma was associated with occupational exposures to construction, metal and wood dusts; motor fuel and oil; paints and varnishes; certain other chemicals; industrial heat; solar heat from outdoor occupations; certain smokes; cigarette smoking; and childhood exposure to parental smoking. After adjustment for risk from diet and cigarette smoke, only wood dust (OR = 2.36; 95% CI : 1.33- 4.19), and industrial heat (OR = 2.21; 95% CI : 1.12-4.33) remained clearly associated. Wood dust remained statistically significant after further adjustment for social class. No significant crude or adjusted association was found between NPC and formaldehyde (adjusted OR = 0.71; 95% CI : 0.34-1.43).

Conclusions: This study supports previous findings that some occupational inhalants are risk factors for NPC. The statistical effect of wood dust remained substantial after adjustment for diet, cigarette smoke, and social class. Intense industrial heat emerged as a previously unreported risk factor, statistically significant even after adjustment for diet and cigarette smoke. No association was found between NPC and formaldehyde.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology*
  • China / ethnology
  • Dust / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Formaldehyde / adverse effects*
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Malaysia / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Sex Factors


  • Dust
  • Formaldehyde