Cancer in persons working in dry cleaning in the Nordic countries

Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Feb;114(2):213-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.8425.


U.S. studies have reported an increased risk of esophageal and some other cancers in dry cleaners exposed to tetrachloroethylene. We investigated whether the U.S. findings could be reproduced in the Nordic countries using a series of case-control studies nested in cohorts of laundry and dry-cleaning workers identified from the 1970 censuses in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Dry-cleaning work in the Nordic countries during the period when tetrachloroethylene was the dominant solvent was not associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer [rate ratio (RR) = 0.76; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.34-1.69], but our study was hampered by some unclassifiable cases. The risks of cancer of the gastric cardia, liver, pancreas, and kidney and non-Hodgkin lymphoma were not significantly increased. Assistants in dry-cleaning shops had a borderline significant excess risk of cervical cancer not found in women directly involved in dry cleaning. We found an excess risk of bladder cancer (RR = 1.44; 95% CI, 1.07-1.93) not associated with length of employment. The finding of no excess risk of esophageal cancer in Nordic dry cleaners differs from U.S. findings. Chance, differences in level of exposure to tetrachloroethylene, and confounding may explain the findings. The overall evidence on bladder cancer in dry cleaners is equivocal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Employment
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Risk Factors
  • Scandinavian and Nordic Countries / epidemiology
  • Solvents / poisoning*
  • Tetrachloroethylene / poisoning*


  • Solvents
  • Tetrachloroethylene