Exposure to welding fumes increases lung cancer risk among light smokers but not among heavy smokers: evidence from two case-control studies in Montreal

Cancer Med. 2012 Aug;1(1):47-58. doi: 10.1002/cam4.6. Epub 2012 Jun 7.


We investigated relationships between occupational exposure to gas and arc welding fumes and the risk of lung cancer among workers exposed to these agents throughout the spectrum of industries. Two population-based case-control studies were conducted in Montreal. Study I (1979-1986) included 857 cases and 1066 controls, and Study II (1996-2001) comprised 736 cases and 894 controls. Detailed job histories were obtained by interview and evaluated by an expert team of chemist-hygienists to estimate degree of exposure to approximately 300 substances for each job. Gas and arc welding fumes were among the agents evaluated. We estimated odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of lung cancer using logistic regression, adjusting for smoking history and other covariates. The two studies provided similar results, so a pooled analysis was conducted. Among all subjects, no significant association was found between lung cancer and gas welding fumes (OR = 1.1; 95% CI = 0.9-1.4) or arc welding fumes (OR = 1.0; 95% CI = 0.8-1.2). However, when restricting attention to light smokers, there was an increased risk of lung cancer in relation to gas welding fumes (OR = 2.9; 95% CI = 1.7-4.8) and arc welding fumes (OR = 2.3; 95% CI = 1.3-3.8), with even higher OR estimates among workers with the highest cumulative exposures. In conclusion, there was no detectable excess risk of lung cancer due to welding fumes among moderate to heavy smokers; but among light smokers we found an excess risk related to both types of welding fumes.

Keywords: Case–control studies; epidemiology; lung cancer; smoking; welding fumes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Air Pollutants, Occupational*
  • Canada
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk
  • Smoking*
  • Welding*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational