To evaluate the importance of exposure to ambient air pollution for lung cancer risk, we conducted a case-control study in the vicinity of a nonferrous metal smelter. The smelter started operations in 1930 and had very high emissions during the early decades, particularly of arsenic and SO(2). Among subjects deceased 1961-1990 in the municipality where the smelter is located and who had not worked at the smelter, 209 male and 107 female lung cancer cases were identified and matched by sex and year of birth to 518 and 209 controls, respectively. Information on smoking habits, occupations and residences was collected by questionnaire to next-of-kin and from registry data. Living close to the smelter was associated with a relative risk (RR) for lung cancer of 1.38 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.89-2.14] among men, adjusted for smoking and occupational exposures. No clear difference in risk was detected for men deceased 1961-1979 compared to men deceased 1980-1990 (RR point estimates 1.42 and 1.29, respectively). There appeared to be an increased risk especially for men exposed in the beginning of the operations (RR = 1.51, 95% CI 0.90-2.54), in particular combined with exposure duration shorter than 20 years (RR = 2.52, 95% CI 0.89-7.11). For women, however, no overall increased risk for lung cancer was observed. Although not significant, our findings thus indicated an increased risk of lung cancer among men living close to the nonferrous smelter. This increase appeared to concern primarily men exposed during the early years of operations, when emissions were very high.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.