Objective: The rising incidence and the strong male predominance among patients with esophageal and gastric cardia adenocarcinoma remain unexplained. We hypothesized that occupational airborne exposures in a traditional male dominated industry might contribute to these observations.
Methods: A prospective, large cohort study of Swedish construction workers was linked to the Swedish population-based registers of Cancer, Causes of Death and Total Population. 260,052 men were followed from 1971 through 2000. Industrial hygienists assessed specific exposures for 200 job titles, and occupational airborne exposures were analyzed separately and combined. Incidence rate ratios (IRR), with 95% confidence intervals (CI), were estimated in multivariable Cox regression models adjusted for attained age, calendar period, smoking status and body mass.
Results: We found positive associations between high exposure to asbestos (IRR 4.5 [95% CI 1.4-14.3]) and cement dust (IRR 3.8 [95% CI 1.5-9.6]) and risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma. Associations were seen between high exposure to asphalt fumes (IRR 2.3 [95% CI 1.0-5.3]) and wood dust (IRR 4.8 [95% CI 1.2-19.4]) and risk of cardia adenocarcinoma. No consistent associations regarding esophageal squamous-cell carcinoma were found.
Conclusions: Exposure to asbestos and cement dust may be risk factors for esophageal adenocarcinoma, and exposure to asphalt fumes and wood dust may increase the risk of cardia adenocarcinoma. However, these associations cannot explain the major sex differences or the increasing incidence trends of these tumors.