Identification of occupational cancer risks using a population-based cancer registry

Recent Results Cancer Res. 1990;120:106-21. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-84068-5_8.


The study of Xuan Wei fuel use and lung cancer mortality and also the interim case-control study suggested an association between domestic smoky coal use and Xuan Wei lung cancer. The collaborative studies of physical characterization, chemical analysis, and toxicology further substantiated this linkage. The Xuan Wei residents who used smoky coal inhaled extremely high concentrations of mostly submicron-sized particles, which can be inhaled and deposited effectively deep in the lung. These fine particles were composed mostly of organic compounds (72%), including mutagenic and carcinogenic organic compounds, especially in the aromatic and polar fractions. These residents were exposed to polycyclic aromatic compounds, such as benzo[a]pyrene, at comparable or higher levels than those measured in coke oven plants and other occupational environments (International Agency for Research on Cancer 1984). In comparison with wood and smokeless coal combustion emissions, the organic extracts of smoky coal emission particles showed much higher activity of genotoxicity and carcinogenicity. These results all point to a strong etiological link between the complex organic mixtures from smoky coal emissions and Xuan Wei lung cancer. This study and studies reported by other investigators (de Koning et al. 1984) suggested little association between indoor open-fire wood smoke and lung cancer. The less efficient lung deposition of the larger particles from wood combustion, as well as the lower concentrations of biologically active organic compounds, may contribute to the low rate of lung cancer in the wood-burning communes. As to the smokeless coal emissions, the lower particulate concentration and the lower organic content of the particles emitted may also contribute to the low lung cancer rate in the commune using this fuel. In conclusion, the complex organic mixtures from combustion emissions are genotoxic and carcinogenic in animal and in vitro assays. The magnitude of the cancer risks from the complex organic mixtures in man depends on the degree of the exposure, the types of the compounds contained in the mixtures, and the concentrations of these biologically active compounds present in the combustion emissions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • China / epidemiology
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Male
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Registries*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Survival Rate


  • Air Pollutants