Relation of radon exposure and tobacco use to lung cancer among tin miners in Yunnan Province, China

Am J Ind Med. 1989;16(5):511-21. doi: 10.1002/ajim.4700160504.


We studied the relation of radon exposure and tobacco use to lung cancer among tin miners in Yunnan Province in the People's Republic of China. Interviews were conducted in 1985 with 107 living tin miners with lung cancer and an equal number of age-matched controls from among tin miners without lung cancer to obtain information on lung cancer risk factors including a detailed history of employment and tobacco use. Occupational history was combined with extensive industrial hygiene data to estimate cumulative working level months (WLM) of radon daughter exposure. Similar data were also used to estimate arsenic exposure for control in the analysis. Results indicate an increased risk of lung cancer for water pipe smoking, a traditional form of tobacco use practiced in 91% of cases and 85% of controls. Ever use of water pipes was associated with a twofold elevation in risk when compared with tobacco abstainers, and a dose-response relation was observed with increasing categories of pipe-year (dose times duration) usage. Estimated WLM of radon exposure varied from 0 to 1,761 among subjects but averaged 515 in cases versus only 244 in controls. Analyses indicated that the persons in the highest quarter of the radon exposure distribution had an odds ratio (OR) = 9.5 (95% confidence interval = 2.7-33.1) compared to persons without radon exposure after controlling for arsenic exposure and other potential confounders. Examination of duration and rate of radon exposure indicated higher risk associated with long duration as opposed to high rate of exposure. Cross-categorizations of radon exposure and tobacco use suggest greater risk associated with radon exposure than tobacco in these workers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Arsenic / adverse effects
  • China
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mining*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Radon / adverse effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Tin / adverse effects*


  • Tin
  • Arsenic
  • Radon