Silica exposure, silicosis, and lung cancer: a mortality study of South African gold miners

Br J Ind Med. 1991 Jan;48(1):53-60. doi: 10.1136/oem.48.1.53.


The effects of exposure to gold mining dust with a high concentration of free silica and tobacco smoking on mortality from lung cancer was assessed in a sample of 2209 white South African gold miners who started mining exposure during 1936-43, and were selected for a study of respiratory disorders in 1968-71 when they were aged 45-54. The mortality follow up was from 1968-71 to 30 December 1986. The relative risk for the effect of dust cumulated to the start of the follow up period was estimated as 1.023 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.005-1.042) for a unit of 1000 particle-years. The combined effect of dust and tobacco smoking was better fitted by the multiplicative model than the additive model, suggesting that the two exposures act synergistically. No association between lung cancer and silicosis of the parenchyma or pleura was found, but a positive association existed between silicosis of the hilar glands and lung cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Dust / adverse effects
  • Gold*
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining*
  • Occupational Diseases / mortality*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Odds Ratio
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk
  • Silicon Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Silicosis / complications
  • Silicosis / mortality*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • South Africa / epidemiology


  • Dust
  • Gold
  • Silicon Dioxide