Lung cancer risk after exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: a review and meta-analysis

Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jun;112(9):970-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6895.


Typical polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon mixtures are established lung carcinogens, but the quantitative exposure-response relationship is less clear. To clarify this relationship we conducted a review and meta-analysis of published reports of occupational epidemiologic studies. Thirty-nine cohorts were included. The average estimated unit relative risk (URR) at 100 Mu g/m (superscript)3(/superscript) years benzo[a]pyrene was 1.20 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.11-1.29] and was not sensitive to particular studies or analytic methods. However, the URR varied by industry. The estimated means in coke ovens, gasworks, and aluminum production works were similar (1.15-1.17). Average URRs in other industries were higher but imprecisely estimated, with those for asphalt (17.5; CI, 4.21-72.78) and chimney sweeps (16.2; CI, 1.64-160.7) significantly higher than the three above. There was no statistically significant variation of URRs within industry or in relation to study design (including whether adjusted for smoking), or source of exposure information. Limited information on total dust exposure did not suggest that dust exposure was an important confounder or modified the effect. These results provide a more secure basis for risk assessment than was previously available.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Pollutants / poisoning*
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / poisoning*
  • Research Design
  • Risk Assessment


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons