Variation in lung cancer risk by smoky coal subtype in Xuanwei, China

Int J Cancer. 2008 Nov 1;123(9):2164-9. doi: 10.1002/ijc.23748.


Lung cancer rates in Xuanwei County have been among the highest in China for both males and females and have been causally associated with exposure to indoor smoky (bituminous) coal emissions that contain very high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. There are numerous coal mines across the County. Although lung cancer risk is strongly associated with the use of smoky coal as a whole, variation in risk by smoky coal subtype has not been characterized as yet. We conducted a population-based case-control study of 498 lung cancer cases and 498 controls, individually matched to case subjects on age (+/-2 years) and sex to examine risk by coal subtype. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for coal subtype were calculated by conditional logistic regression, adjusting for potential confounders. Overall, smoky coal use was positively and statistically significantly associated with lung cancer risk, when compared with the use of smokeless coal or wood (OR = 7.7, 95% CI = 4.5-13.3). Furthermore, there was a marked heterogeneity in risk estimates for specific subtypes of smoky coal (test for heterogeneity: p = 5.17 x 10(-10)). Estimates were highest for coal of the Laibin (OR = 24.8, 95% CI = 12.4-49.6) and Longtan (OR = 11.6, 95% CI = 5.0-27.2) coal types and lower for coal from other subtypes. These findings strongly suggest that in Xuanwei and elsewhere, the carcinogenic potential of coal combustion products can exhibit substantial local variation by specific coal source.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • China
  • Coal / adverse effects*
  • Coal / classification
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Risk
  • Smoking / adverse effects


  • Coal